David Brent / Foregone Conclusion

Life on the Road

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There are a number of theories as to why Ricky Gervais chose to resurrect David Brent: was it for the money or simply for the love of a great character? The theory that stands out takes into account the wider context. Not only has Gervais re-donned his Brent persona, but he took him on tour with a band and released an album -- the latter of which doesn't happen in Brent's fictional world -- all pointing toward the possibility that a full-length Brent record is largely Gervais indulging his abandoned dreams of being in a band himself.

Although Brent's musical aspirations are hinted at over the course of The Office's two seasons, it wasn't until 2013 that Gervais was given an opportunity to embellish them, in the form of the Comic Relief charity single "Equality Street." With the waters tested and a taste of musical recognition, for both Gervais and Brent, the wheels were set in motion for a feature-length film and a meta-debut record. The amount of fun to be had with the soundtrack depends on how much of a fan you are, as the highlights are served with a large side of nostalgia, including fan favorites "Spaceman," "Paris Nights," "Equality Street," and "Freelove Freeway." The remaining tracks fall into two categories: songs that are meant to be comedy and songs that sound like they want to be taken seriously. Opening number "Ooh La La" falls into the latter group, sounding as if it was lifted from a straight-up classic rock album. This approach falls flat, however, when listening to a track such as the Status Quo echoing "Thank Fuck It's Friday," which neither tickles the funny bone nor appeals to the musically inclined. Then there are the overtly comedic tracks, which work when they reference Brent's life, such as the anthemic "Life on the Road" or heartfelt ballad "Slough," or when they include a slightly odd verse from rapper Doc Brown, but in other places they come across as lyrically jarring. Obviously that's the intention, but without the context of the film, and the lack of genuinely funny moments within the music, it can be uncomfortable; listening to "Please Don't Make Fun of the Disableds" through your headphones feels a little uneasy, but it's unthinkable to play it out loud.

From "Don't Cry It's Christmas" onwards, the record shifts from a token seasonal song and the vocoder-centric "Spaceman" to a reggae double-header before landing at the Chris Martin collaboration -- and Coldplay imitation -- "Electricity." If this was a serious album, that kind of sequencing would be unforgivable, but the final verdict depends a lot on perspective. If this is Brent's album, existing for comedic reasons purely to accompany the film, then it fulfills its purpose. However, taken at face value, it's nothing more than a mish-mash of classic rock tropes and controversial lyrics. Either way you look at it, it's a vanity project -- the question is, whose ego was it designed to please?

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