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Tom Petty 

The Last DJ (Warner Bros.)

Tom Petty's as pissed as a millionaire gets, meaning you'd better take this (ahem) concept album about rock and roll corruption with a grain of salt the size of Mike Campbell. What happens when this album, financed by a multinational, gets airplay? Will it be considered victory or surrender, ironic or just inevitable? Because what you'll find here is hardly an act of insurrection; let's talk when he starts paying for the sessions out of his own pocket, when he starts funding his own tours and returning his own phone calls, instead of using the outside PR man as a shield.

Until then, admire Petty's anger; revel in his vitriol on The Last DJ. There's plenty to be pissed at: Radio stations hire consultants, "celebrate mediocrity," and turn their jocks into whores only too happy to take money from labels. Concert tickets cost way too much, and bands are delighted to sell their songs and souls to lite-beer commercials ("Money Becomes King"). Label execs are little more than Svengalis, eager to shape some hot young thing into the Next Big Thing in the name of corporate contentment ("Joe"). Ours has become a vacant and complacent culture that has rendered our youth little more than characters in a violent video game ("When a Kid Goes Bad," "Lost Children").

Yup, dude -- it all sucks and only gets worse from here, and what's a poor rock star to do, except sing about it and hope critics write about it, so people will buy it so the label can pay for it, till the vicious cycle starts all over again, after he gets done touring Afghanistan and handing over the proceeds to musicians' health-care trust funds. Did I mention it sounds like every other Tom Petty record? Well, it does.


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