What’s the first thing that comes to mind, besides The Office, when you hear the name David Brent? Well in all honesty, if it isn’t this, then I am surprised. But I digress. When sitting down to listen through this album for the first time, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from it. However, one thing was for certain: it would be a far cry from Gervais’ initial foray into the music business, with 80s new wave, synthpop duo Seona Dancing. Now, while it is likely that Life On The Road will not hold the keys to a second teen favourite in the Philippines for Ricky, it most certainly does possess an auspicious assortment of suitably cringeworthy ‘anthems for the outsiders’ – as David Brent himself might unwittingly dub them.
From the fervent sways and twangs of the self-explanatory, and possibly a tad too literal ‘Native American’, to the brightly benevolent, piano-charged ‘Please Don’t Make Fun Of The Disabled’, one can only marvel at the perpetually comedic chutzpah on show throughout the album. While a small number of the songs have been known to fans for several years now, after appearing in episodes of Learn Guitar With David Brent, each one has been suitably refreshed. With the trundling toe-tapper ‘Free Love Freeway’ appearing to have taken a trip through a Fountains Of Wayne filter at some point during the recording process, much to its advantage might I add, the most glaring of changes has to be the truancy of Gareth’s unprecedented backing vocals from the song’s first public performance on The Office. As of course, if Mackenzie Crook’s interjections had made an appearance on the album version, it would’ve made the song too much of a joke – and we wouldn’t want that, would we.
Amongst all of its classic Brentisms and musical tributes, the record’s biggest triumph is its diversely adept lyrical content. Almost every song tells a story, and – though littered with quips – frankly, what more would you expect from such a mercurially talented writer as Gervais. He dances around the folk genre with the playfully candid ‘Lady Gypsy’, which tells the curious tale of Brent’s first love, at a time when he’d “known only eighteen summers” with finger-plucked virility, while later on in the album, the punchy swagger of ‘Equality Street’ signals a dip into the world of reggae. Incidentally, this – along with ‘Lonely Cowboy’ – is where the rap stylings of Doc Brown coming into play, with shuddering effect. I’m mean really, how can you not have a hip-hop artist in the mix when there are pearls of wisdom aplenty, such as “black people aren’t crazy / fat people aren’t lazy / and dwarves aren’t babies”, waiting with baited breath to be proclaimed.
With Gervais having previously listed Brent’s would-be desert island bands/musicians as: Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, and Bon Jovi, it doesn’t come at all as a surprise that the album’s title track is by no means the only tribute to the aforementioned trio of rock legends and far beyond. From the iridescent, carefree kick-starter ‘Ooh La La’, through the Bowie-approved love letter to ‘Slough’, and all the way to the Boss-inspired, tentative pulse-pounder ‘Thank F**k It’s Friday’, the man’s extensive knowledge of the many walks of music out there, is clear as day to see.
Right from the opener, all the way to the closer, the seriousness with which Gervais undertook the entire project is abundantly clear. From whomever’s point of view this record is listen to, it imparts an observational odyssey of omnipotent odes, lighthearted laments, and forthright social commentaries that is so light on its feet, its frankly a wonder how a tribute to ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ is absent from its track list.
Words by Alex Graham