One of Petty’s best records gets a lick of deluxe paint.
Chris Lo 2010-11-18
Although Tom Petty has retained a dedicated core audience since his heyday in the late 70s, as evidenced by the generally positive reception of the Heartbreakers’ latest LP Mojo, the Floridian rock legend’s lustre seems to have been eroded somewhat by the march of time and shifting tastes. Unlike fellow US immortals Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, Petty has struggled to win over a new generation of young fans willing to kick-start a new chapter in his career. Damn the Torpedoes, re-released in a new deluxe edition, stands a good chance of arresting this decline. This release will undoubtedly be treasured by long-time fans on board since Petty’s Mudcrutch days, but it should also serve as the perfect introduction for newcomers curious about America’s most accessible rocker.
What’s immediately noticeable about Damn the Torpedoes is the timelessness of its melodies and riffs. While some classic Petty albums, like solo hit Full Moon Fever and the Heartbreakers’ sixth release Southern Accents, feel firmly grounded in the 1980s, Torpedoes is the kind of sleek nine-track beast that rocks as hard today as it ever did. With its measured but piercing guitars and laconic vocals, the album also heavily signposts the influence Petty has had on modern southern rock outfits like Drive-By Truckers, Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket. Opening track Refugee instantly lays out the trademark Petty blueprint: clean, assertive riffs followed by surf-cool vocals and an instantly memorable chorus, coming to a final crescendo before the fun has worn off. Speaking of fun, tracks like Even the Losers and Don’t Do Me Like That still crackle with a mischievous energy, every note and guitar lick hiding a brazen smirk or sly wink.
As a deluxe package, this release is solid, if hardly exhaustive. The new digitally re-mastered mix sharpens the songs, adding to the openness that is the album’s chief strength. Previously unreleased tracks Nowhere and Surrender showcase the economic songcraft and infectious poppiness that Petty mastered during the Damn the Torpedoes sessions. While a demo of B side Casa Dega and an alternate take of Refugee don’t add much for the non-obsessive, the jewel in the crown of this package is the trio of live performances from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1980 (including a cover of Eddie Cochran’s Somethin’ Else), which bring home the Heartbreakers’ flawless on-stage credentials at the height of their prowess.
Over 30 years since its release, Damn the Torpedoes still sounds like the breezy pop-rock experience it was always meant to be, and remains a record ripe to be discovered by a new generation.