Dean Ford renews, this week, his membership in the cult of pop with the release of Deaf. Dumb. In Love., a six-song EP filled with love songs and general guy-girl drama in the classic poodle skirt tradition. Ford's abetted by former Goodnight Process bandmates Kurt Baker (bass/vocals), Kris Rodgers (keyboards/vocals), Marcel Hamel (bass) and Nate Marchand (drums) — since the album was recorded largely back when they were together as a band.
POP CULT? SURE! Dean Ford.
The disc is an extension of the Goodnight Process EP, The Way Things Are, released in the spring of 2009, and probably should have dropped in the spring of 2010, when the band had a little momentum going, but couldn't quite get this next EP released.
So now Ford is working as a solo artist, just like Tom Jones, to whom I can't help but link him for some reason. These tracks are more straight-ahead than some of the artier delivery Ford used last time around, which lends them a more aw-shucks, pure pop vibe, possibly influenced by Baker being around, who sort of specializes in this kind of thing.
While Ford's not quite a crooner, he is a sucker for mushy sentiment. "I think I struck gold when I found you," he sings on "Best There Is," where his vocals are particularly present and closely mic'd. Listen here, too, for those three-note percussion hits that should have you picturing '80s chicks in torn day-glo clothing clapping their fingerless-gloved hands.
He gets even more lounge lizard in the very-catchy "Come on Say," which travels right on the edge between brilliance and cheese. The glockenspiel and ukulele supplied by Spencer Albee in a guest turn make for a song that could easily have been penned for a Cocktail remake, and there's a point where backing vocals call out, "awww fresh!," like a New Kids on the Block tune, but the chorus is just so punchy that it's very difficult not to forgive Ford for it all.
"I've never felt better," he assures us, "and it's all because of you."
On both of these songs, Jonathan Wyman's production is terrific, with precise and crisp sounds that keep things confectionary. Elsewhere, though, like with "Too Familiar," which is more sneering — "I should have known this would all fall apart" — I found myself wishing for something more raw and unrefined.
"Broken and Bruised," co-written by Baker, could get more raw in a couple of ways. Instead of another sad-sack ballad, why not give me some of the anger the protagonist here must be feeling. He's been cheated on, betrayed, but I'm not sure I quite believe. Something more roughshod and desperate might better fit lines like, "I'm so sick of you treating me like an old pair of shoes."
Instead, we get Barry Gibb style "hey, hey, hey" chimes. The disco reference is interesting, but it just seems too sunshiney for the lyrics.
Regardless, the choruses never fail to deliver here and you're not coming to Dean Ford for the gritty realism. You want upbeat and danceable? Then find yourself Deaf. Dumb. In Love.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEAF. DUMB. IN LOVE. | Released by Dean Ford | at Slainte, in Portland | March 15 | facebook.com/deanfordmusic