Everything Is On The One

On Tom Petty's twelfth album, there is something for everybody. Those who

sing along in the car will dig "Walls," yet another superb single in

Petty's canon; those looking for new sounds will be wowed by the gentle

percussive sway of two versions "Angel Dream" and the peach-fuzz crunch

of

"Change the Locks." And moviegoers can even take in the film that features

some of the music.

She's the One is the second film by the young director Ed Burns

(The Brothers McMullen). It's a moderately engaging film about two

brothers, how they love and live, fight and make up. Burns called Petty

and asked him to score the film. Petty agreed.

For any mid-40s rocker, soundtrack work seems inevitable, especially so

close on the heels of a greatest hits collection and a six-disc box set.

But Petty's recent work, from "Mary Jane's Last Dance" to the

multi-platinum splendor of Wildflowers, reveals an artist as

restless as he is uncontrived, and one at or near the top of his game.

Petty even makes videos that are as good as the songs: who else can make

that claim? He remains one of the few artists who can capture the

attention of younger fans with each new release.

The songs on She's the One are broad enough that they don't hinge

entirely on the germane scenes from the movie; the flexibility is such

that the album could stand on its own, with no film.

"Walls (Circus)" leads off, and contains hints of past collaborations with

producer Jeff Lynne. It sounds a bit like a circus, with the ring of a

slightly syncopated hollow-body guitar and a beat that's perhaps too

steady. But the kicker, if not in the que sera sera verses ("Some days

are

diamonds/Some days are rocks"), is in the singalong chorus ("You've got

a

heart so big it could crush this town/And I can't hold out forever/Even

walls fall down").

For the big fun and silliness of the first version, Petty and the

Heartbreakers also recorded a more businesslike version for general

consumption, "Walls (No. 3)." Performed at a slightly quicker clip, it's

not only more natural, but also embodies everything typical of Tom Petty

to begin with: it's catchy without being fluffy, straightforward without

being obvious, poetic but not pretentious. Moreover, in under three

minutes, Petty dishes out a song that easily bridges any generation gap.

The beat on this version is far more relaxed than on the first, the

production minimal, so things open up considerably. Instruments rightfully

take a back seat to Petty's warm and understated vocal-the real key to

the

song. Infectious, substantive, and wonderful.

After Into the Great Wide Open, Petty moved toward making albums

that are less produced, relying more on playing than on the sounds. "Zero

From Outer Space" is a good compromise between the two styles, an

echo-laden rave-up that recalls his and the Heartbreakers' stage rendition

of the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction." Distorted guitars and calm yet

defiant-sounding vocals make Lucinda Williams' "Change the Locks" a

full-tilt rocker. The Heartbreakers, making their second album without

longtime drummer Stan Lynch, sound remarkably cohesive. Session drummer

Curt Bisquera keeps good time without complicating matters.

So how does the music relate to the movie? The music doesn't really play

a

central role. It's more of a score than a soundtrack. Bits of the plot

may

come back when hearing "Supernatural Radio." Judging from the lyrics,

Petty was certainly engaged with the movie when he wrote the song, but

then added his own quirks.

She's the One features three songs that Petty recorded for

Wildflowers but left off. Given the sources for songs, their

incarnations, and trying to keep track of whether a song appears only in

the film or only on the album, initial listenings were confusing. That

faded.

The songs here are mostly first-rate and engaging. The movie is an added

bonus, and gives a bit more context to the instrumental tracks. Beyond

that, hearing parts of songs through a sophisticated ten-speaker theater

system was the only other treat.

This album stands on its own, with two speakers and no film.