Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers take dim view of the world with Hypnotic Eye

Hypnotic Eye is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ first full-length album since 2010's Mojo. The band has been working on the Reprise/Warner Bros. release for nearly three years at Petty's home studio in Malibu, Calif., and at the group’s Los Angeles rehearsal space. “I knew I wanted to do a rock and roll record,” Petty tells Rolling Stone. “We hadn't made a straight hard-rockin' record, from beginning to end, in a long time,” he says about the band’s 13th studio album. NME reports that Petty has “rarely come across as more overtly American than on [Hypnotic Eye].”

From the “gritty rumble” of opener ‘American Dream Plan B’ to the “honky-tonk blues” of ‘Burnt Out Town’ to the “vigorous” ‘Full Grown Boy’ and ‘Shadow People,’ all 11 songs “see Petty harness the grand ol’ USA more than ever before. It’s not patriotic, though. Rather, this album critiques modern America while embracing the heartland rock of Petty’s early years. It won’t convert the unconvinced, but Petty sounds as inspired as ever,” reads the NME review. Rolling Stone adds “the 63-year-old and his eternal Heartbreakers return to the scrappy heat of those early days with their toughest, most straight-up rocking record in many years, deepened by veteran perspective.” The lead single from Hypnotic Eye is ‘U Get Me High,’ which is currently No. 22 on the Mediabase Rock radio airplay chart.

Petty tells USA Today that he wanted to go somewhere he’s never been on an album. “We used a lot of distortion and lots of old amplifiers and guitars and keyboards to find the right sonic textures,” says the 63-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist. “I didn't want a lo-fi record, which is too easy for us. I wanted to make a hi-fi record that had an edge and excitement to it. You're not sure what you're hearing but it's different. I had to wash the palette clean and mix up new paints.” Petty claims the result isn't a self-portrait but a “very observational record.” The title is inspired by the “hypnotic eyes” of TVs, computers, and smartphones that monopolize daily life. The 11 tracks examine avarice, materialism, religious hypocrisy and the imperiled American dream.

”These were the pressing issues around me," Petty continues to USA Today. “It's a moral album about what's happened to the human that's lost his humanity.” Billboard's editor at large, Joe Levy, says Hypnotic Eye is a “more raw-sounding record than he's ever made.” Compared to the Heartbreakers’ “concisely crafted, radio-friendly early discs,” Petty’s latest is described by Levy as “loud and fierce, the way he and The Heartbreakers sound live.” He adds the question’s Petty wrestles with in the songs aren't about personal betrayal. “They're about social betrayal,” explains Levy, “not specific politics but the American ideals of equality and cooperation, the idea that America is a place where people take care of each other and opportunity is not restricted by the wealth and power of a few,” he says.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers begin touring in support of Hypnotic Eye on Aug. 3 in San Diego. A full schedule of North American dates with singer Steve Winwood continues through Oct. 10 with a finale at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Featured festival stops include the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco and at the Lockn' Festival in Central Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Watch the official Hypnotic Eye teaser and 2014 tour announcement from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

As A Matter of Fact…

* Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty was born October 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida. He quit high school at age 17 to join one of the state's top bands, Mudcrutch, along with future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. When the band sent Petty to L.A. to seek out a record contract, he scored by connecting with Denny Cordell's Shelter Records. When Mudcrutch disbanded, Cordell offered to record Petty solo.

* In 1975, Petty heard a demo that Campbell and Tench were working on with Ron Blair and Stan Lynch. They all connected, and the quintet not only became the Heartbreakers, but inherited Petty's Shelter contract, releasing a self-titled debut in 1976. The record initially sold poorly, but after touring England as the opening act for Nils Lofgren, the Heartbreakers began headlining their own shows.

* In 1978, ABC Records rereleased the single ‘Breakdown’ in the U.S., and the single slipped into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 at No, 40. Petty then signed to Backstreet Records—a new MCA affiliate—releasing the now-classic Damn the Torpedoes and igniting a run of albums and singles (‘Don't Do Me Like That,’ ‘Refugee,’ The Waiting’) that would forever secure Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as rock legends.

* Petty conquered the 1980s with more hit song magic (‘Stop Draggin' My Heart Around’ with Stevie Nicks, ‘You Got Lucky,’ Don’t Come Around Here No More’) and a world tour Bob Dylan. He also co-founded the Traveling Wilburys side project with Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and ELO’s Jeff Lynne.

* Petty closed out the ‘80s with Full Moon Fever and enjoyed even more success on the coattails of hit three of the album’s singles including Top 10 smash ‘Free Fallin’’ (No. 7) along with ‘I Won’t Back Down’ (No. 12) and ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ (No. 23).

* Tom Petty is a satellite radio show host and sometime actor. He has a recurring role on the animated comedy King of the Hill. His character, Lucky, earned his nickname when he won a $53,000 settlement after slipping on urine in a big box retail store. Petty has also appeared in movies such as The Postman with Kevin Costner.

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