The National’s Matt Berninger has covered Tom Petty song ‘Only a Broken Heart’ from Petty’s landmark second solo album Wildflowers with fellow indie artist Ronboy.
The duet is featured in the still-in-progress documentary Resynator, which follows music technician Alison Tavel as she reconnects with the pioneering work done by her father Don, the inventor of the titular synthesizer. The Resynator never quite got off the ground in the same way that similar products from Moog and Fairlight did, but Tavel is attempting to revitalise the synth’s origin story that intertwines with her own personal one by gathering a bevvy of musicians, including Grace Potter, Lo Moon, and Train, to record songs with the synthesizer on a new playlist of songs.
Fittingly, Berninger and Ronboy’s version of ‘Only a Broken Heart’ is spacey and electronic in a way that the original Petty tune isn’t. Still, Berninger’s signature baritone evokes Petty’s southern drawl without ever sounding like an imitation, and the tones of the Resynator that forms the foundation of the track is uniquely buzzy and atypical. It’s musical, but not in a way that the synthesizers are. Instead, the Resynator sounds like a mad science project: a feat of engineering that should be used in a computer but just so happened to produce harmonic notes. It’s really unique.
This October will mark four years since Petty’s untimely death. There have been a flurry of tributes in the time since, and Berninger is just one of many to pay tribute to the legendary figure. But even if he’s not the first in that regard, that doesn’t take any power away from his mournful, stirring performance. Berninger can emote like few others, while Petty could write like few others. They’re a perfect match.
Check out the cover of ‘Only a Broken Heart’ down, below.