BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
While its somewhat cerebral title might suggest otherwise, Hypnotic Eye places its emphasis on strictly visceral appeal. In typical Petty fashion, the songs hew to the approach the group’s maintained since the beginning – a forthright, forward-leaning sound that finds the leader’s bedraggled vocals supported by hints of harmony, and a generally dour disposition that precludes any possibility for frivolous distraction. The album’s opening track, the driving and determined “American Dream Plan B,” makes those intentions clear; Petty’s unusually gnarly singing offers more than a hint of intimidation and exasperation.
Elsewhere though, it’s groove over gravitas. A deeply furrowed bass line underscores the restless rhythm of the aptly titled “Faultlines” and its apparent companion piece, “Shadow People,” while the boogie and bluster of “Burnt Out Town” sounds amazingly like a lost long gem from the ZZ Top songbook. More on point, the full throttled, unrelenting pace driving the majority of these tracks – “Forgotten Man” and “All You Can Carry” being two examples – brings to mind such early standbys as “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and the equally edgy “American Girl.”
Although it’s easy to lament the fact that Petty and the Heartbreakers don’t vary all that much from their usual template. Hypnotic Eye also affirms the fact they remain an austere and unapologetic outfit, which has pretty much been their mantra since the start. After nearly 40 years, it’s almost reassuring in a way to find Petty’s still so full of purpose.
DOWNLOAD: “Forgotten Man,” “Faultlines,” “All You Can Carry”