The recent upheaval in Lita Ford’s personal life certainly has tongues wagging. And while gossipy fishwives may prattle on about the details of her messy divorce from Jim Gillette, former singer for the glam-metal dandies Nitro and a one-time Ford collaborator, the rest of the metal community better not sleep on what is undoubtedly the most personal record of her career, Living like a Runaway.
Coming off 2009’s delightfully sinful, and uncharacteristically heavy, Wicked Wonderland, Ford casts aside the S&M trappings and sexual bravado of that record to unburden the heavy emotional baggage she’s obviously been carrying around for way too long. Living like a Runaway is the best kind of therapy, comprised of some of the strongest and most daring material of her career. Nowhere to be found is the cute, cuddly pop-metal of her breakout 1980s hit “Kiss Me Deadly.” Instead, the defiant Ford – never a shrinking violet – works out her issues in a clutch of fierce, swaggering rockers like the blazing single “Branded” and its slithering, nastier cousins “Hate” and “The Mask” that, for all their righteous anger and seductively metallic grooves, still boast gripping hooks galore.
Lighter and more introspective is the autobiographical title track, which features a nimble-fingered guitar lead and wistfully nostalgic lyrics that speak to Ford’s restless nature. And the soul-baring “Mother” is such a frank and affecting acoustically-sketched letter from Ford to her children that it’s almost hard to get through. But, it bears out, in stark detail, how the wounds of divorce heal so slowly.
The bandages are ripped off on Living like a Runaway, and yet for all its bluster and ballsy attitude, “Relentless” ought to have a chorus that isn’t so feathery and disappointingly lightweight. Still, for the most part, producer and co-conspirator Gary Hoey, Ford’s secret weapon, helps her stay focused on grinding out the kind of tough, meaty riffs and high-flying solos that make “Devil in My Head” such a brawling and candid exploration on the dual nature of man … or, in this case, woman. Though Ford can’t help dipping her toes in the somewhat clichéd and dated piece of ‘80s metal that is “Asylum,” its spandex-sporting kin “Love 2 Hate You” embeds wonderfully melodic hooks in a sparkling, yet bittersweet, chorus that serves to remind everyone that Ford still knows her way around a pop song.
In the past, Ford may have lived her life like a runaway, detached and isolated like a troubled young girl who’s left home and hasn’t a clue where to go or what to do next. Perhaps her time in the raw, adolescent punk girl group The Runaways was, in and of itself, a similarly confusing exile. Whatever the case, Ford, who’s been smashing her pretty blonde head against heavy metal’s glass ceiling for years, has turned her present inner turmoil outward and it fuels some of the edgiest, most provocative music she’s ever produced.
Label: SPV/Steamhammer (the album in CD and MP3 formats an be ordered here).
Formerly the editor of Goldmine magazine, prior to the reign of one Patrick Prince, Peter Lindblad has been a music journalist for the last 10 years. His work has also appeared in Elmore magazine and Lostatsea.net, among other publications. He believes heavy metal has the power to cure the sick and make the blind see.