The Good: Some decent lyrics
The Bad: Typical Petty vocals, Nothing extraordinary on the music front, Somewhat produced
The Basics: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers put out a disappointment with little new to say and no energy to say it.
I was looking through c.d.s at a local store the other day and somehow I ended up leafing through the works of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I had recently gotten around to reviewing their Greatest Hits (reviewed here!), and I was pleased to they had done a recent update (Anthology). I was checking out some of their older works and I came across an album entitled Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) and I was immediately struck by how I did not know a single track off it. Despite fitting within the year range, there are no tracks from Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits. While that has been rectified on Anthology, I was intrigued enough by this - and the album's cover - to give it a spin.
What I found were eleven tracks that were distinctly Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, distinctly '80’s, and ultimately unextraordinary. Listening to Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) (the album), I am not surprised none of the tracks made it to the first Greatest Hits album. This is an album tarred by mediocrity.
First, the album is short, clocking in at barely 41 minutes. I tend to like albums longer, to use the format well. Even when I don't like something, I suppose I would rather have more of it. And perhaps that is the biggest fault of this album; there's not enough of anything. The writing is not challenging, the music is pedestrian and takes no risks, and Tom Petty's vocals are all standard. There is nothing challenging here.
The writing is disappointing on both a technical and thematic level. Tom Petty is arguably a great writer. Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) both the album and the track do not exhibit this. So, for example, the bland "The Damage You've Done" simply repeats the title as a refrain three times and repeats that chorus three times in the song, intercut with essentially the statement that the narrator's heart is broken. Thematically, there is nothing challenging here. There is nothing as quirky and original as "Zombie Zoo" on Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough). "Think About Me" is essentially an up-tempo recasting of "The Waiting." As I've said, the writing is not spectacular here.
Even worse are the specific lyrics. "Baby" comes up on this album an inordinate amount of times. We have "little baby" in "Think About Me," and plain "baby" in "The Damage You've Done," "Jammin' Me," "A Self-Made Man," “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)” and "How Many More Days." That's "baby" in six out of eleven tracks. That's pathetic. Isn't it Tom Petty in the episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to Rock and Roll camp who says "baby" is passe?
Beyond that basic problem, the lyrics generally don't "pop" on this album. The diction is not terribly sophisticated (though on the title track, Petty does use the word "humility"). "Jammin' Me," for example is loaded with pop culture references that are dated and even having lived through the late 80s, are difficult to decipher exactly what point Petty is going for with them. And despite the singer imploring the listener to take back all the things that make him feel "painted in a corner," it doesn't have much in the way of angst. So even when the lyrics might be passable, the music does not back them up.
Nowhere is this more clear than on "Ain't Love Strange," a track plagued by keyboards that are just late-80s standard in such a way as to make the listener wince. Sure, the album is from the late 80s, but I usually consider Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as those who push the envelope, not simply emulate it.
And as for the vocals, Tom Petty doesn't strain himself on this outing. There is nothing special in his range, he doesn't challenge his abilities. Most of the songs are easily recognizable as Tom Petty as far as voice and he does not try anything new here. Moreover, the "yeah yeah"s that cap off the title track and end the album are just terrible.
The only worthwhile song I found that I could enjoy over and over again was the sentimental, soft "It'll All Work Out." The worst track among the other unspectacular works is "A Self-Made Man."
For other classic rock works, check out my reviews of:
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (single) – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Covers - James Taylor
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
For other album reviews, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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