The Petty Archives

The Waiting Is Over For Petty's Album
By Jay Fry
The Phillipian - June 2, 1985

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Southern Accents
It's been a long while since Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers last hit the music scene with 1982's Long After Dark, but the wait is over. Southern Accents, strengthened by MTV favorite "Don't Come Around Here No More," is surging steadily up the charts. Some long-time fans were more than a little distressed when "Don't Come Around Here No More" hit the radio. Petty's collaboration with Eurythmic Dave Stewart, the moody twanging of the sitar which opens the song, the bizarre and rather stupid video that accompanied it, all seemed far removed from the days of "Breakdown," "Listen To Her Heart" and "Refugee."

Such fans will be relieved to discover that "Don't Come Around Here No More" is the exception on Southern Accents, not the rule. The album opens with "Rebels," a lush, moving song about Petty's heritage in the Old South, one of the best songs of his career. Next comes "It Ain't Nothin' to Me," another collaboration with Dave Stewart, which comes out sounding like a discofied bar band stomp. The song is fairly interesting, but the shuffling synthesizer and drums that dominate the background ultimately bring it down. "It Ain't Nothin' to Me" moves into "Don't Come Around Here No More," which can best be described as weird. Some will love it, some will hate it. "Southern Accents," which closes Side One, is a warm, simple piece devoid of the electric distractions which occasionally plague the album. It's just Petty, a piano, and some strings in the background, and it's a very effective companion piece to "Rebels." Both songs are growing up in the South, but the title track lacks the bitterness of "Rebels."

Side two begins with "Make It Better (Forget About Me)," the third and last collaboration with Stewart, which is much more satisfying than the first two. Although it begins with a burst of synthesized noise, "Make It Better" uses horns instead of keyboards for background. "Spike" is a moody, strange song about an outlaw biker, while "Dogs on th Run" is a fairly straightforward rocker, even if it does open with five seconds of a dog panting out of one's speakers. "Mary's New Car" is simple and effective, and although it sounds somewhat like the Petty/Stewart songs, it's pure Petty. Southern Accents closes with "The Best of Everything," an enjoyable, but fairly unimportant ballad.

Southern Accents, then, is somewhat different than the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers we've heard before, but it isn't Tom Petty sings the Eurythmics (and thank God, too). On a scale from one to four, Southern Accents gets three stars. Old Petty fans will enjoy his latest, and the album should net him a bunch of new fans, too.