Wednesday, April 08, 2009



Artists rarely release records this strong in the autumn of their career, though Petty did just that with "The Last DJ". A loose lyrical concept ties the first few songs together as themes of rampant greed and crass commercial interest destroying music are explored with very little subtlety. I agree with all of the sentiments expressed.

The title track says it best.

Mediocrity is exactly what our current culture is celebrating. Just watch any of the karaoke contests on TV. Hour long commercials interrupted by bad lounge singers. The whole thing reeks. Occasionally, a pretty flower pushes its way through the cracks of a sidewalk in the middle of the city. Decent music, too, will always make its way to an audience. Eventually.

"Joe" is a scathing rant against all the distasteful aspects of the music business. The cynicism is rooted in reality, though. It has to be galling to be a craftsman in a disposable world. That's what truly fuels most of the finger pointing songs here.

Balanced by his ear for great melodies, the album also has its share of of softer material. "Dreamville" visits a place in the distant past lyrically with a full on moment from side two of Abbey Road in the middle, replete with orchestra and slow, distinct tom fills, giving the impression that Ringo himself dropped by to add his two cents. It's a fantastic song.

Equally good are "You and Me" and "Have Love Will Travel".

Mike Campbell is one of the most underrated guitarists in the business. Indeed, the Heartbreakers are comprised of musicians of the highest calibre. Who wouldn't want a genius like Benmont Tench in their band? They make it look so easy.

Tom Petty has put thousands of hours into his craft and it shows. He's resisted the temptation to turn his fans upside down and shake out their pockets when they come to his concerts, fought the record companies on price gouging and has maintained a pretty high standard as a writer. "The Last DJ" is no exception.

"And the lonely DJ's digging a ditch, trying to keep the flames from the temple."


rock and roll history said...

I havent heard this album. Your review makes me want to check it out-- actually BUY it even.

Tom puts on one of te greatest live concerts i have ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Sean Coleman said...

It's well worth picking up. I listened to it a lot when it first came out. He is great live. I last saw him in 2006. The vintage guitars lined up on stage were sick.

Jeff said...

I never really got into Petty that much. He has a knack for writing great songs that are insanely catchy, but I always felt like there wasn't that much depth. For me he does what he does really well, and it's great to hear his songs on the radio, but I don't find myself seeking out his music. I most definiey respect his song writing capabilities however.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Great post on Tom. You're so right about him. Not many "rock stars" are as down to earth and very few care about the fans like he does. For him and his band its all about the music, and having a great time in concert. I will never tire of listening to him or watching him!

Sean Coleman said...

It's certainly rare to find someone that walks the talk in the music industry. He seems to put the work first and stays away from the red carpet circuit.