Floridians are normally a happy-go-lucky laid back bunch. And until recently, Tom Petty, a Gainesville native, fit that description perfectly. But with the release of The Last DJ
(Warner Bros.) his latest album with the Heartbreakers, the singer-songwriter wants to let everyone know that he is one unhappy camper – and his anger is not unjustified.
Disgusted with the current climate of the music industry where art is controlled by big money corporations, the veteran rocker seems ready to declare an all out war on behalf of the handful of creative musicians who are left.
Petty opens the album with a rallying cry. The title track “The Last DJ” drips with venom and outrage as he pays tribute to a dying race – the disc jockey who “plays what he wants to play / and says what he wants to say”. The songs cuts straight to the gut in that great no-nonsense fashion that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his stellar back-up band are known for. Just in case big business thought they could turn a blind eye and deaf ear to one little song, the long-haired singer has a few more for them to mull over.
“Money Becomes King” is a slower almost dirge-like song that chronicles the downfall of the concert industry. Petty plays the part of a wondering Homer desperate to pass down the story of his own rock ‘n’ roll odyssey as he laments about how the concert experience is only for the rich while the working man watches “on a screen they’d hung between the billboards”. The song “Joe” attacks the sleazy corporate executive himself as he searches for a good-looking kid who can “remember his place” or a girl who he can market as an “angel-whore”. The tunes are harsh criticisms to be sure, but it’s hard to find any examples that would discredit the rocker’s rants.
The crusading singer calms down a bit on the some of the album’s last few tracks. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have always been known for their quirky sense of humor (check out any of their videos) and I’m happy to say they haven’t completely abandoned that aspect of their musical personality.
“Blue Sunday” is vintage Petty with it’s tale of lonesome losers trying to hook up at the 7-Eleven. Think of it as a cousin to the band’s hit song “Refugee”. The Man Who Loves Women” is a slight jab at the kind of guy who’s just a dog when it comes to the ladies. “He’s quite prepared to mingle/ comes on like he’s single” coos Petty in his lazy Southern drawl. The song also features backing vocals by guest artist Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
The Last DJ proves that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have no plans to go gently into the later half of their career. In fact, the anger and accusations have a slight tendancy to overwhelm the album at times. What this artists has to say is important and needs to be said however, a little more of Petty’s singular wit might have made the preaching go down a little bit easier.