Album Review: Echo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

True to its name, Echo carries Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers back from the quiet brooding of their She's the One soundtrack to the territory they cover best, both lyrically and stylistically: independence, defiance, rebellious love. Strange themes for a bunch of middle-aged industry veterans, but satisfyingly appropriate when you consider their enduring drive to crank out solid '60s-era rock 'n roll when their closest contemporaries have gone adult contemporary. "Free Girl Now," is a pounding emancipatory salute that, along with the similarly triumphant "Swingin'," and "Room At The Top" showcases the band's "screw 'em" mentality as well as its ever-mature capacity for tight, anthemic bite. Petty's musical roots show gleefully through the Byrdsian "Accused of Love" and the jangly, warm-weather "Won't Last Long." His bittersweet vocals melt heartbreakingly in ballads like "Lonesome Sundown." Mike Campbell's steady guitar work provides perfect support and in some cases lends the music a tenacity that Petty's lilting whine, for all its mouthy charm, doesn't. Echo, in the end, is the product of a band that knows itself well and is determined to remain the same group of free-willed, Florida-cool rockers they've always been. They may no longer be learning to fly, but they still won't back down.