I read some savagings of this album in the press before I owned it. It's Neil so I'd have bought it anyway, but I think a lot of those playing it once over have missed the point. Sure, this is Neil on another flight of fancy, driven (no pun intended) this time by the project to convert his Lincoln Contintental to an eco-friendly beacon for motoring of the future. And sure, his brainstorms can lead him well away from the mainstream and into work others struggle to understand. But we're nowhere near the confusion of Greendale which is more like a novel, or the indulgence of Everybody's Rockin which must have been fun to make, but did little to advance his reputation.
For Neil watchers better signposts this time might be Broken Arrow or Re-ac.tor, seemingly effortless rock-outs, chock full of flying riffs, fleeting solos and instantly memorable melodies. For all the criticism of the focus on the 'Linkvolt' car project Fork in the Road does look outwards and deliver some deep thinking and Neil's usual dry humour. Just Singing a Song is a statement of principle that it's okay to talk about issues but getting out and doing something is what counts. The beautiful and sparing Light a Candle is a ballad to compare with his best, and a deeply-felt statement of optimism. The title track has Neil cussing, pointing fingers at washed up bankers and getting down to what matters with a combination of rightious fury and dark mischief.
It doesn't pay to pour over the lyric sheet and put your life on hold too many times when listening to Fork in the Road, but it's a perfect companion in the car or at home because it has those flashes to suggest the man is still on fire. When it grinds along and sputters into those fiery guitar licks, for all that it might have been recorded with his usual haste, it still has that full-on/full of life feel.