Tuesday, December 19, 2017
SHE"S THE ONE
Perhaps the most under-appreciated offering in the lexicon of Tom Petty releases (runner up would be Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough) this subtle, nuanced record is everything that the movie to which it owes its existence is not.
She’s the One (the movie) is forgettable, capable of sending a meth freak into a stupor within minutes.
Not so the “soundtrack”, which is comprised of a mix of off-cuts from the banquet that was the Wildflowers sessions, some new material, two covers and scattershot “in-jokes” that are amusing to the right audience. Conversational marker on that last point. Only five of the fifteen selections found here actually made their way into the film as incidental music.
Before delving into the merits of this album, one sad fact remains. The sudden loss of Tom Petty still seems surreal two months on from the event. While the best of his output may have seemed effortless, it was pure, toughminded craftsmanship that shaped the finished product. Thousands of hours went into producing those melodies, with very little filler allowed to slip past quality control. His is an artistic voice that will be very sorely missed.
I can hear you singin’ on my supernatural radio…
THE BEST OF EVERYTHING
“Walls (Circus)” served as the lead off single, trailer to the full length disc and makes for an incredibly memorable opener. Custom built to lodge itself in the brain, the infectious chorus is hammered home by the 12 sting solo which gently reprises the verse. Out of the gate, an irresistible connection is made with the prospective listener. The other stunner is “Climb the Hill” which indulges Mike Campbell’s AC/DC fetish. Dig those Phil Rudd inspired cymbal crashes infusing the riff that follows the beautifully harmonized hook. Lindsey Buckingham adds his voice to both of these tunes. “Hope You Never” is the sleeper song that closes side one and ranks with anything that Petty ever coaxed out of his Dove acoustic. Straddling the line between beauty and bile, it manages to be charming, hurtful and haunting all in the space of three minutes. Suitable for framing, the same superlatives apply to “Supernatural Radio” which playfully quotes his friends Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart in the lyric. “Hung Up and Overdue” imports the feel of the late sixties in texture, while two ex-Fabs (George and Ringo) lend their prodigious talents to the track. The arrangement is nothing short of perfection, leading the pack in my personal highlight reel here. Harrison puts on a masterclass in understatement with slide guitar parts that play only in service of the song. Leave it to Ringo to steer the ship in perfect time. Rounding out these standout pieces are the delicate “Angel Dream” sequences
(numbers 2 and 4), which are complemented by soothing strings, exquisitely picked acoustic guitars and note perfect harmonies.
“Grew Up Fast” and “California” represent polar opposites in terms of what the Heartbreakers brought to the table. The former brings some shade into play early on. Though he didn’t share his general condition with the world at that time, divorce and a growing heroin habit took their place amongst writing and band activities. Things would get uglier in his personal life before he properly dealt with these issues. There is a down note that creeps into the material throughout, though “California” paints on a plastic smile and keeps things upbeat. Similarly, “Zero From Outer Space” channels mid-sixties Dylan with a muscular nod to Bo Diddley as the band powers through this slight, yet amusing romp. The covers fill out the set without really coming off as memorable. Beck’s “Asshole” is taken at a funeral pace, while Lucinda Williams “Change the Locks” overstays its welcome after the two minute mark. Both are dispensable. Lowlights aside, that still leaves plenty to love. Rick Rubin directed traffic from behind the glass as producer, the guests all add value to the finished product and you could eat your dinner off the pristine mix. This one holds a special place for me as it came out about a week before my 28th birthday. I remember being obsessed with “Climb That Hill” at the time, immersed in the reference points that informed much of the material. This brings us full circle to my comment early on about musical in jokes. The cover art should have depicted the entire band sitting in a smoke-filled room with classic vinyl littering the floor, collectively staring at the camera and sporting matching smirks that even a nuclear blast could not wipe off their faces. This is not a minor work by any stretch of the imagination. Well worthy of reexamination, She’s the One is a document that brings many sonic rewards with repeated spins. These charms are especially magnified by taking in a vinyl copy.