Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Tom Petty's follow-up to Full Moon Fever, Into The Great Wide Open, was one of the last cassette tapes I bought, and I played it until it sounded warped. I loved it. I learned all the lyrics. Because I had bought it when it was new, as opposed to When I Heard It An Adult's House, it felt more like My Tom Petty Album than Full Moon Fever. But after the back to back releases of Greatest Hits and Wildflowers, I hardly ever went back to it.
It's a solid album, but, looking back through all of Petty's discography, it does feel like a really Safe version of Full Moon Fever. There are no weird tracks on this album, they all sound like radio friendly single attempts. I love the title track, and a few other songs, but it's not as magic. I didn't cut anything, though, because there aren't any Bad Songs. I even added the final Traveling Wilburys track for this discography. And, with its new order, I like it a bit better as I've tried my best to space out the songs that sounded too similar. As an album, I think it's more solid than my Southern Accents (which, again, is a pre-Full Moon Fever Greatest Hits collection) but I'd file it with 21st century Petty, albums I love from beginning to end, but am rarely compelled to listen to.
Much like the frequently mentioned, Full Moon Fever, this album was formatted to highlight the singles. The first two tracks were the first two singles. They're good songs. They're not really openers, though. Makin' Some Noise is a declaration (that the rest of the album doesn't live up to) that this is going to be more rock than adult contemporary. The lyrics are completely forgettable. It's all about the guitar riff and the occasional Petty screech. It also follows the trend of laying down some interesting rockabilly piano that it fades out on far too quickly.
Into The Great Wide Open was the first Petty single that I was into at the same time that it was getting major radio play. I love its narrative flow, and the open strumming before the chorus hits. The final verse flow from jingle to mingle to single is probably my favorite verse he ever wrote. I love that the story ends there.
It's time to say goodbye to the Traveling Wilburys with The Devil's Been Busy, a takedown of rich, entitled White people (which is probably not quite how they would have described it in 1990, but that is what it's about). It's not their greatest track, but I do love the chorus and the unmistakable George Harrison sitar.
Another actual rock riff screams out of All Or Nothin', which sees raw Petty emerge in the chorus breaking up Mature Petty's verses. My skin is thicker / my heart is tougher / I don't mind working / but I'm scared to suffer has always seemed super relatable to me, even if it is Incredibly Trite. There's also hella wammy bar in the solo.
Too Good To Be True is the quintissential sound of this album. It's very strummy. The background harmonies are very basic but work well. The lyrics are bumper sticker philosophy (as are the lyrics in "All Or Nothin'"). It's a good song, in that it seems like a song you already know all the words to. Even the fake ending before the almost soft jazz electric guitars seem like Oh Yea, I Remember This.
Continuing the trend of the strummy familiar songs is For All The Wrong Reasons. The lyrics are a step up from the previous two, even if I wouldn't exactly call it challenging. It's the kind of song that if you heard it at a concert, you wouldn't feel bad about singing along with it, as everyone at the show likes it, but nobody was super psyched and waiting for This Song to experience live.
King's Highway is almost a Cars song with Tom Petty on vocals. I think it's the drums that just scream Early 80s, even though this is an early 90s song. Part of me thought about plucking this song off this album and dropping it on to Highway Companion, it would have sounded instrumentally out of place, but lyrically perfect. My favorite part of the entire song is the exhausted drum finale.
For the second album in a row, I've pulled the first track, also the first single out of its place because it didn't sound like an opener, and placed it where I felt it naturally belonged. Both times, I've ended up placing it at what would be the first track of Side Two for records or tapes. Learning To Fly is a perfectly great Tom Petty song. But I loved it So Much when it came out, and now I wouldn't put it in my top twenty-five Petty songs.
Out In The Cold attempts to bring back the rock a bit. The drums do most of the work. Though the lower octaved guitars help give it a more menacing feel than most of the tracks on this album. It also has a spare narrative that evokes all sorts of Feeling Lost Because I Don't Know Where I'm At In My Relationship, even though it never really addresses that that's what's happening.
I spent more time than should have been necessary to find a logical place for You And I Will Meet Again. Its opening strum sounds like it's already the middle of a song but not in such a way that I wanted to try and fade into it. Instead I placed the "What's In Here? / Ohhhh" skit just before it. I like the idea of the Petty that was wondering around in the snow during the last poem, opening a door and a monster...not just any monster but a big, fuzzy Muppet monster that represented his failed relationship...begins singing him this song. For the fourth or fifth time in the discography we fade out on rockabilly piano that I wish was more present in the song.
The Dark Of The Sun could have been the closing track of the album. It's low-key but not quite a ballad, and there's a hint of optimism in the lyrics.
I think I liked Two Gunslingers so much when it came out because I was reading The Waste Land by Stephen King at the time. And I always pictured the A stranger / told his missus / that's the last one / of these gunfights / you're ever going to drag me to taking place in Lud.
Closing out the album is the actual closer from Into The Great Wide Open. Built To Last is a literal banger, if the bass drum is to be believed. It's a cheesy love song with some cool background effects, 50s harmonies, and it's a nice farewell to this familiar Petty, as the next album brings the last Interesting Change to Petty's repertoire.