The Petty Archives

Petty Flaws
By Bruce Nixon
Sarasota Herald-Tribune - April 18, 1985

Of all the heavyweight arena rockers who emerged in the late '70s, Tom Petty has been the most consistently overpraised and overrated. His songs display craft rather than art, and with his whiny vocals and monochromatic performances, he generally falls short of expectations.

Though he is often placed in their company, Petty lacks the penetrating vision of a Bruce Springsteen, the grand personal style of a Bob Seger and even the passionate commitment of a John Cougar Mellencamp.

"Southern Accents," (MCA), touted as a kind of thematic effort dealing with Southern fulture -- Petty comes from Central Florida -- is a solid, respectable record that is pretty typical of much of Petty's work.

The Heartbreakers, one of the tightest, most coherent support units in mainstream rock these days, are one of the singer's greatest assets. As a songwriter, though, Petty sounds deliberate, thought-out and not especially insightful.

There are song good songs here, certainly, but it is wiser, perhaps, to take Petty's work at face value -- decent, well-crafted mainstream American rock that aspires to (and attains) little beyond the middle line.