When is a reinvention not a reinvention? It can happen when you are Tom Petty and you act on the impulse to reform the band you fronted prior to becoming the rock icon you are now.
Mudcrutch is one of the superlative rock records of 2008, satisfying on its own terms to be sure, but as with all such superior work, no matter the musical genre, more than enough to make any listener want to see the band live. Petty and co did do some shows in earlier the year but they were confined to their virtual backyard in California, so how welcome is this Extended Play Live EP?
It’s only twenty-seven plus minutes, but it’s enough to allow to Mudcrutch reaffirm the quintet didn’t piece it together in the studio. Listen to the long flowing likes of "Crystal River," and understand the empathetic guitar relationship between Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and Mudcrutcher Tom Leadon. The songs allows both of them to play cleanly or adorned with effects, continuously moving deeper into a gigantic swirl, as befits the song title, that extends close to fifteen minutes.
Positioned as something of an encore in this truncated setlist, that cut appears after the barroom honky-tonk of "The Wrong Thing to Do," as clean and firm a kiss-off as Tom Petty’s ever issued (except perhaps the one he offered his record label on price hikes back in 1981): "it’s the wrong thing to do but I don’t care." Mike Campbell sounds like he’s having as much of a lark screeching along the strings of his electric guitar as Benmont Tench dancing along the piano keys with raw, barrelhouse abandon.
Petty borrows from himself for "Bootleg Flyer," a composite of any number of his earliest and rootsiest songs, but the bass runs he takes more than compensate: returning to this instrument necessitates some familiar touch point.
Given the retro graphics, not to mention old-school concept of this item, it might’ve been cooler, not to mention less crass, for the disc to come enclosed in a sleeve within the digi-pak, one which might’ve featured more than advertisements for Mudcrutch and TP/Heartbreakers merch (especially given the full-fledged Mudcrutch website). But that’s as easy to dispose of, as it is to pledge keeping this EP, especially if it all eventually leads to more Mudcrutch in the studio and on stage.