Sound Ideas: Petty challenges The Boss
By Marty Racine
The Milwaukee Sentinel - Friday, November 16, 1979
The term 'New Wave' is applied not only to a definitive style of rock 'n' roll -- definitions too big for this discussion -- but also to that branch of rock which is fresh, urgent, off the streets, lyrically "meaningful," new, honest, daring -- interesting.
Bruce Springsteen, for example, is not readily categorized as New Wave because of his mass appeal and at times lengthy songs, but under the above descriptions he is and so are Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Police.
Tom Petty's third album, "Damn the Torpedoes" (MCA 5105), will go down as one of this year's blockbusters, an album that makes you take notice. Already it's showing up on virtually evey FM rock (AOR) playlist in the country. Big radio sellers are not usually unique works, but in this case the attention is justified.
Petty, as was Springsteen in his early days, has been a "cult" artist through his first two LPs, which is an euphemism for someone who doesn't have a big following. "Cult" also connotes an overlooked talent, and there are those who feel Petty is rock 'n' roll.
"Damn The Torpedoes" is more polished, more introspective, than Petty & The Heartbreakers' first two albums. Some of the edge is rounded off, some of the danger missing.
But whereas the two earlier recordings established Petty as a great collector and interpreter of various rock styles, "Damn the Torpedoes" delivers a singer-guitarist who has become his own man. The album is another level in personal development, as Petty utilizes trademarks formulated earlier.
While some Petty fans might miss the edge in "Damn the Torpedoes," I think it's a great album, of scope and grandeur and the glory of rock. It's fluid and articulate from start to finish, without filler cuts.
I'd compare all three of his LPs favorably with Springsteen's records, even, though I'm not yet going to rank him with The Boss until I see him live. Petty will be at the Uptown Theater Nov. 24.