Baseball, apple pie, and Tom Petty: You don't get more American than that. Petty first hit the airwaves when they were saturated with ham-fisted guitar riffs and masturbatory art-rock pretense. He reminded listeners what rock and roll was capable of, tying simple, direct lyricism to lean, muscular songs — which unpretentiously and unapologetically champion the only America he knows. Songs about dreaming and often about losing (but never about quitting) play right alongside tunes that resonate with the hardscrabble heartland. The Heartbreakers' signature sound bears just the right level of melancholy and frenzy, hitting like a well-timed combo from a welterweight fighter. They get in, knock 'em down, and get out.
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