Following a long hiatus beginning in the mid-'90s, the onetime undisputed queen of pop metal, Lita Ford, returned to the world of performance with 2009's Wicked Wonderland. The record was a far cry from the radio-ready hard rock she made her name on in the hair metal days, leaning more toward industrial heaviness, electronic instruments, and S&M imagery than any of her material that came beforehand, solo or otherwise. The record met a generally frustrated reception and poor sales, and with this, her eighth solo album, Living Like a Runaway, Ford strips away some of the conceptual and electronic mayhem that made the last album so confusing, returning to a more straightforward rock approach. Aided by co-producer/songwriter Gary Hoey, Lita offers up ten tracks of punk-fused metal more in line with her back catalog, including the kind of pop hooks and sinister breakdowns that kept her older records from stepping over the line into inaccessibly thrashy heaviness. In the time between Wicked Wonderland and Living Like a Runaway, Ford went through a particularly ugly divorce with her longtime husband, former Nitro singer Jim Gillette, and the strongest material here cries out in catharsis with angry feelings stemming from the divorce. Unrelenting songs like "Branded," "Asylum," and "The Mask" all speak pretty directly to failed romance and betrayal and "Mother" is a heartbreaking ode to her two estranged sons, turned against her by their father following the divorce. A fair amount of the songs swim in similarly dark waters, with subject matter ranging from mass murder ("Hate") to possession ("Devil in My Head"), before throwing in a relatively light contemporary hard rock number with the road-weary title track. The album is spotty, to be sure. Hokey filler tracks like "Luv 2 Hate U" and a confusing cover of Nikki Sixx side project 58's "A Song to Slit Your Wrists By" don't make the already reaching album any stronger. Despite some missteps, the bitterness and spite of Ford's heavy metal breakup album get to the most visceral core of her sound. At times she sounds raw, exposed, spun out in pain, or even like she's rewriting earlier songs, but even the least successful moments sound genuine. Living Like a Runaway sounds like a record Lita Ford needed to create rather than a weak attempt at a comeback. While it likely won't be the album that skyrockets her back into the spotlight, fans will be relieved and thrilled to hear her return to form.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas