David Ford: Songs for the Road

Ford is the kind of bloke who makes fun of misery and discovers humor and catharsis in the blackness.

David Ford

Songs for the Road

Label: Original Signal
US Release Date: 2008-04-01
UK Release Date: 2007-10-15
Internet release date: 2008-02-12

Maybe it’s just because my life has been such a mess these days, but David Ford’s latest album serves as a perfect complement for my freakin’ cheery mood. Ford’s depression ain’t the self-wallowing kind. He’s the kind of bloke who makes fun of misery and discovers humor and catharsis in the blackness.

Take a lyric like, “Nothing broke / Your fall / And so you fell”, words that open a song. Its irony and pathos elbow their way clear as the song paints the portrait of one doomed to be lonely. The gentle, off-beat lilt of the melody suggests the singer commiserates with the fallen lover, and perhaps has had a pint or two in sympathy. Ah, life... doesn’t it suck.

Ford begins his new disc with a cut bluntly entitled, “Go to Hell”. Ford’s not trying to ingratiate himself with the listener as much as declare himself at war with the world. But what should one expect of someone who includes a solo acoustic bonus track at the disc's end (on UK versions of the record) of the Smiths' “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out” (with its immortal line, “If a ten-ton truck / Kills the both of us / To die by your side / The pleasure and privilege is mine”).

The pleasures of Ford’s dark vision can be found in the literate quality of his lyrics, the gruff strength of his voice, and the unusual way he combines his tunes with his words so that they often seem in battle. Sometimes his writing comes off as wrought poetry, “I don’t like to use words like forever / But I will love you till the end of today / And in the morning when I remember everything that you are / I know I’ll fall for you over again”. Other times he can just toss off a line that seems to capture a mood perfectly, “So you can keep your belief in whatever / And I’ll wear my cynicism like a tattoo”. In both cases, the listener has to attend to what is said to get the full meaning. It’s not that he’s deep, but that Ford is complex and uses specifics to make his points. He doesn’t sing in sound bytes. He’s aware of the knotty nature of thoughts and feelings.

Ford conveys this notion that life isn’t simple through his vocal style. He rarely hits high notes, and seems to breathe as he vocalizes. The Englishman sings sentences that turn into paragraphs. He offers monologues and discourses more than conversation.

Perhaps that’s why his musical backing takes off on different paths than his voice. Often the music seems to be more rhythmic and interested in keeping the beat than furthering the tune. Some songs, like the grandiloquent “Requiem”, don’t have choruses. The rage in this tune can be found more in the way the harmonica wails than in Ford’s hammering nails approach to singing. But the vocals bite as the Englishman cries, “Let us be kissed on the cheek / Let us be fucked from behind” as he talks about a world where we sell out our kids for oil, destroy the environment for cash, dance at the disco and say there is no one to blame.

This may not be a happy record, but there’s charm in finding out one is not the only person who looks at the world and wonders why it sucks. There’s joy in learning that while many people may disappoint you, some won’t, and may even delight you. Isn’t that enough, really.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.