Saturday, March 30, 2013

Long After I Stopped Caring About Long After Dark

The Good: Decent instrumentals and music, One or two lyrics
The Bad: SHORT, most of the lyrics simply do not pop, SHORT! Vocals are unimpressive
The Basics: Without any lyrics that are impressive, the best Long After Dark achieves is enjoyable instrumentals and irony.

Classic rock albums are often, at least in my experience, a real mixed bag. There are some I've found recently that I truly am blown away by, like Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (reviewed here!). But more often than that, I find albums that were originally records to be short, unengaging and limited. When I reviewed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), I found myself seriously disappointed. As I have a copy of the greatest hits from this band, though, I was eager to find another album by them that I enjoyed. I picked up Long After Dark. And after seven listens, I'm equally disappointed with this endeavor as with the other one.

With only ten tracks, spanning a meager 37 minutes, 44 seconds, Long After Dark was the fifth studio album from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the only track from it to make it onto the Greatest Hits album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was "You Got Lucky," a weird turn-of-phrase rock song about how lucky the singer's partner is to be loved by him. This is a simple pop-rock album with little to recommend it.

First off, this is not Tom Petty's best written endeavor. Unlike his later songs where he is original and an able and interesting poet, Long After Dark has some of the least inspired lyrics of any of Petty's works. Perhaps that's why the songs are so short; Petty might not have had enough to say, so he kept it short. What he does say is somewhat dull. Long After Dark is an album about endings ("A One Story Town," "Deliver Me," and "Change of Heart"), finding love ("Finding Out" and "We Stand A Chance"), being cocky in a relationship ("You Got Lucky") and general apathy ("Between Two Worlds").

More than just the themes, Long After Dark is lyrically unsophisticated as well. Petty's well seems dry when he opens the album with the terribly predictable rhyme schemes of "Oh, I'm lost in a one story town / Where everything's close to the ground / Yeah the same sh*t goes down / Nothing turns around / It's a one story town" ("A One Story Town"). In "Between Two Worlds," he rhymes "bone" with itself, which is a pet peeve of mine. Closing on '"A Wasted Life," an uncertain love song, ends the album on a somewhat anticlimactic and unresolved note. In short, none of the lyrics pop, outside the irony of "You Got Lucky."

What does work is the instrumentals. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers manage to make something intriguing and easily listenable with their combination of guitars, keyboards, drums and bass. Instead of being simply a guitar/bass/drums group or a piano-driven ensemble, Long After Dark effectively combines the sounds of both styles to make a solid rock and roll sound that is consistent and interesting.

Moreover, while the lyrics might not be anything to shout about, the melodies created on the tracks of Long After Dark are distinctive and memorable. While all of the tracks rock, they sound completely different from one another and different from tracks on other Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers's works (at least the ones I've heard). So, the combination - for example - of electric guitar and keyboards on "We Stand A Chance" completely overwhelm the uninspired lyrics and make the listener want to hear the song again, just for the instrumentals.

Perhaps this would be a better album as elevator music, without the lyrics.

I write this because the vocals are fairly uninspired as well as the lyrics. Tom Petty falls well within his usual range with his somewhat scratchy vocals, whining through the short poems he wrote. There is nothing that one does not expect from Petty with his vocals here. Instead, he is exactly within range, unchallenged and unchallenging.

This might be worth a spin just to hear the music, but it's impossible to recommend it, even for that. If only the lyrics were there to justify the drums, guitars and keyboards that make the album an instrumental success and a decent rock experience then this would be something. But it's not. Impossible to recommend, even to fans of classic rock.

The best track is "You Got Lucky." The low point is "Between Two Worlds."

For other Tom Petty And The Heartbreaker reviews, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)
Greatest Hits
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (Single)


Check out how this album stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my relativistic Music Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best to worst!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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