14 August 2015
Frank Turner - Positive Songs For Negative People
Frank Turner is a sort of cottage industry for independent music; very quick back story (the first (and so far only blog) which I did for 'Sleep Is For The Week' (cleverly linked here) is back in the days when I did not so into as much details as I do know - some people might think we go into too much detail, I blame Luke): Frank Turner came to the attention of people firstly in the post hardcore band Million Dead, during which time he had played a few solo shows. When Million Dead split up, he decided to continue his solo work as it was easier than getting another band together; he has proven to be a very good at his chosen career. He went from playing local bars (he would play anywhere, I saw him in Trillians (a local rock bar), I know he played a small night club in Darlington in 2010 for a New Year’s Eve party, he has toured in the big Academy venues around the country, toured stadiums supporting punk legends, played as part of the Olympic ceremonies in London, released a book of tour diaries, been accused of being a false idol because he went to Eton (around the same time as some of the current royal family - and as if that matters when the music starts - so it is not a subject to be debated for this blog), started another hardcore project the wonderfully named Möngöl Hörde (review of that album from Luke cleverly linked here), released three compilations of B-sides & radio sessions and just kept on touring as much as possible. So, I think it is safe to say that he likes to keep himself busy and he does not like to have the grass grow under his feet. I know we were going to look at his last two releases ('Tape Deck Heart' and 'The Third Three Years'), but for some reason or another they are still covered in dust. But when this album was announced the day after my birthday, I thought I would like to review this one; so how has life and time been to Mr Turner and is the album any good....
The opening song is a gentle acoustic song which could be a love letter to London called "The Angel Islington", it is full of references to streets and landmarks in the English capital and it also has references to a love interest which Mr Turner is mixing metaphors with comparing his lover to the Angel Islington (hopefully not in the same version of Islington as used in the Neil Gaiman book ‘Neverwhere’); but he is still going to walk away as he states at the end of the song that by the waters of the Thames, that he will start again. It is a gentle song that gives this album a very soft opening and you can hear clicks and the strings of the guitar being hit as if it has been recorded live in one take. I like that sound, it is a good opening to this record. The next song is “Get Better” which has the full band playing and the song is about Frank Turner being fixed as he is an emotional mess and he is in fighting spirit as well. It is a foot stomper and a crowd singing anthem for the disenchanted and lost. This is a hymn of defiance against the world and it shows that people should not give up hope as they are still alive and able to fight. This is the side of Frank Turner that I have been missing – he feels as if he is finally at ease with himself and his backing band, it was not exactly there for me on the last few releases; here it is available in spades as it sounds as if he is now at able to function in this setting as well. “The Next Storm” is a song which to me sounds as if the break in an argument which has been raging for a few months. The question about being together is the order of the day and one person is wanting to be outside, you can read quite a lot into this one if I am honest and I will tactfully step to the side of that pit. This tale of exit is a really good song, but the quest for freedom is hopefully replicated on both sides of this emotional break up. Fourth track “The Opening Act of Spring” feels like the sequel to “The Road” from ‘Poetry of the Deed”, the road is calling once more and everyone is being asked to forgive the wondering nature of the singer. Sometimes a break is needed to make things fresh and it is an undertaking that can be daunting; this song is one side of a situation that is missing the other side of the fight. It is well written and performed, but the subject that Mr Turner has wrote about an awful lot and he is a man for the road; it is his mistress and he is forever going to be like this if we are honest. A decent song which shows some of the nature of the man.
“Glorious You” is the fifth song and this is the song of the album for me; a positive number about realising that you are not always alone and there is someone out in the world who will help you up just accept it. These sentiment would just be nice sentiments if it was not accompanied by a great piece of music to lace them over; thankfully Mr Turner has created a very fine piece of music for these words and it is an instant classic for Frank Turner – an outstanding song. Following on from this is the slower, moodier “Mittens”, this is a number of wistful yearning and unrequited love. You have the journey man who is always leaving and moving on, looking backwards and wondering why a love was not replicated. It is probably a lament to the curse of being a free spirit, but it is well played one again. It is not the strongest of songs on the album, but it is still a decent number. By contrast the two minute plus “Out of Breath” is just a punk/folk runaway train that is heading towards the horizon at a frantic speed and trying to escape the death that is the subject of the song, seriously it is a speedy number for Mr Turner and it reminds me of the old country standard “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and it will probably go down a storm at any of the shows that he is bound to play in the next few years. “Demons” is the eighth song on the album and it is another song that looks death, life and your own personal demons in the eyes and not blinking. The song has a serious side, but the music sounds really happy and joyful; but that is part of the message as well – you only have one shot at this life, you are not getting out alive and you might as well enjoy it as it will be over before you know it. The band sound in fine form here, the song is positive and tight; once more I am held under the charm of this man.
“Josephine” (sadly not a cover of the Terrorvision song) is a song about something heard in a dream, the after effects of that and which person was it aimed at. It feels like a natural extension to “Demons” musically, it has that sing-along quality that can come from Frank Turner; it is a very musical number where the lyrical content is secondary to the music and it works very well on this song and (like “Demons”) it is another well-crafted number off this album. “Love-Forty Down” is a song about being up against the odds, the numbers are all against you and it starts off quite, really quite and it builds up very quickly (it is just two minutes and thirty seconds in length) to a sing along ending and defiance against all the odds; damned or not, there is a fighting spirit to this number and you cannot help but be impressed by it. The beginning was not hopefully, but by the end of the song I am a believer in the number. The penultimate song is “Silent Keys” is a heartfelt number, a fictional story about Christa McAuliffe who was one of the astronauts on the fatal Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986. It is a strong story and I can understand the sentiment behind it; as someone who remembers seeing that event unfold on TV, you really wish it was true and it is something that makings it all the more bittersweet to be honest. The vocals which are supposed to represent Christa McAuliffe are supplied by Esmé Patterson (thankfully they did not go to Taylor Swift as some people have stated she was suggested for the part – thankfully Frank Turner has the balls to reject the label’s idea and that does take a lot of courage), she does her job admirably and the song is a truly stellar moment in this top draw album. Finishing the album is “Song for Josh” and this is a live recording of a tribute song for a friend of Mr Turner who took his own life. You cannot help but hear the hopelessness in his voice, you can hear the conflicting emotions trauma that goes on inside when you lose someone in this manner. It is a strong, powerful and emotional song that ends the album on a strong number that is a tribute to a man who was a strong presence in Mr Turner’s life.
This is the strongest album that Frank Turner has released since ‘Love Ire & Song’ and it might even surpass that album as well. When an album is as well-crafted as this, you cannot help but be impressed by it; whilst there are some numbers which I do not like as much as others, it is the most consistent albums that Frank Turner has released and it is one of the more surprising albums for me this year. The production work by Butch Walker is really strong throughout the album and Mr Turner and co sound as if all that touring has really paid off. He has always been a man who has worn his heart on his sleeve and not afraid to leave it out there for all to see, now he has upped his own personally high standards and created his best album yet. It is not quite a perfect ten for me, but it is still really good and worth checking out.
8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track – Glorious You
You can purchase the Standard version of this album from Amazon here (there is also the usual Deluxe album as well if you are into that sort of thing)
You can visit the Frank Turner website here, there is also a webstore attached where you can purchase the album directly from the artist
You can follow his activities on Facebook here
You can stream the album on Spotify here
You can stream the album on Deezer here
You can stream the album on Tidal here
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