Hypnotic Eye

Hypnotic Eye

At the time of its 2014 release, nobody knew Hypnotic Eye would be the last album from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. But as far as final albums go, it’s a pretty good one—and not just because it’s fun to listen to (though that helps). What makes Hypnotic Eye such a satisfying send-off is the way the album fits into the arc of the band that made it. Some artists become more enigmatic with time, like David Bowie or Johnny Cash. Others become warmer and more intelligible, like Nick Drake or The Beatles. For Tom Petty, Hypnotic Eye was simply a reaffirmation of what had felt like the Heartbreakers’ mission all along: humble, grounded rock ’n’ roll—made for, by, and of the people. A few years before work began on Hypnotic Eye, Petty had revived Mudcrutch, the racket-making Florida band he’d formed decades earlier. That reunion had a ripple effect on the music that would eventually find its way onto Hypnotic Eye: Not since the mid- to late-1970s had the Heartbreakers sounded so much like a bar band. But while the group’s early albums were obviously the work of brash young men, Hypnotic Eye sounded like it was made by old dogs who were tired of trying to impress anyone, but who were having too much fun to stop—the all-night players at some fantasy roadhouse just outside town. There’s plenty of late-in-life wisdom to be found on Hypnotic Eye—the reflective boogie of “Fault Lines,” the middle-aged libido of “Full Grown Boy”—but it’s dispensed humbly (and, in the case of “Boy,” with a slightly unsavory grin). But as with Petty’s work with The Traveling Wilburys, the mandate on Hypnotic Eye seems to rest on just having a good time—age, scrapes, and better judgment be damned. Petty came in kicking; on Hypnotic Eye, he goes out in pretty much the same way.

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