Life on the Road is the debut full-length album by folk rock aficionado David Brent. Many will remember David as a reality TV personality, but veteran fans may have witnessed an early incarnation of his songwriting prowess when he toured with his band, Foregone Conclusion, in the 1980s. A debut full-length album, released on David’s own label Juxtaposition Records, is many years in the making. The wait has been agonising, but was it worth it?
Well, in a word, yes. Brent’s musicianship has been undoubtedly refined in the decades leading up to this album’s release, and his musical palate has been greatly expanded upon, in part thanks to a younger and more vibrant backing band than was heard on Foregone Conclusion’s early demos. Yes, the line-up has changed considerably, but that’s only for the better when considering the breadth of sounds on offer here.
Foregone Conclusion classics like Spaceman and Equality Street return and are given a fresh coat of paint (the latter indebted to the young and talented rapper Dom Johnson), as is fan favourite Free Love Freeway. Freeway is a sensational pop rock song with a hook that never grows old, and lyrics that tell a multifaceted tale of unrequited love and an undying yearning for romance. An overarching story encompasses the song’s narrative via the ever-relatable metaphor of hitting the open road as an escape from one’s past.
Free Love Freeway is not the only heart wrenching song on this album, however. In fact there are many tear-worthy ballads to be found here, be it a love-letter to the oft-disregarded places we call home (Slough), or a stunning tribute to a dying young orphan (Don’t Cry It’s Christmas). It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Life on the Road perfectly balances the melancholy with sure-to-be radio hits (the eponymous Life on the Road), bouncy reggae romps (Ain’t No Trouble) and fist-pumping rock anthems (Thank *** It’s Friday). Cap it off with songs that convey powerful and controversial messages capable of changing perspectives -- such as Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disableds -- and you have yourself an album that will be remembered for decades and centuries to come. Life on the Road closes with the uplifting epic Electricity, complete with “whoah whoah”s and a chill-inducing lead guitar melody. There couldn’t have been a more satisfying way to end Brent’s magnum opus.
I could go on and on, but I’ve sung this album’s praises for long enough now. It does, however, deserve every ounce of it. It’s just that good. You owe it to yourself to give Life on the Road a listen.