First Listen: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, ‘Hypnotic Eye’ : NPR
Even when he was in his late 20s, Tom Petty had a curmudgeonly edge to him, so it’s no surprise that he’s sneering about threats to the American dream in the opening moments of his new album, Hypnotic Eye. At 63, Petty is well into his transition to full-blown misanthropy, at times splitting the difference between Randy Newman and Bob Dylan. (See: “Burnt Out Town.”) But there’s still playfulness to the way he presents himself, not to mention plenty of rock ‘n’ roll fire in his belly, with the chunky guitars that rumble under “American Dream Plan B” backing up that notion.
Even in his salty youth, even in the Full Moon Fever-fueled career renaissance he enjoyed in his late 30s, and even in his turn among rock’s most respected elder statesmen in Traveling Wilburys, Petty has let a sort of enigmatic unknowability inform his music. On his warmest records, like 1994’s soon-to-be-reissued Wildflowers, there’s still a measure of distance to the way he presents himself. He never seems to let listeners all the way inside his head, opting instead to loom large like the creepy Mad Hatter character he played in the “Don’t Come Around Here No More” video nearly 30 years ago.