I have to admit, I have a certain fondness for this gentleman. It’s rare that you find an artist who is so passionate and open about his beliefs, and still find a human being underneath. I’ve been looking forward to his new album (most of which was written whilst relentlessly touring) since it was announced a while ago. I was almost in two minds whether to listen to it or not – Sleep is for the Week was a great debut, and I remain a massive fan of Million Dead, so there’s an irrepressible fear that eventually, one day, Frank Turner will run out of ideas.
Don’t fret though – I did listen to it. And then I listened to it again. And again. Some of the stuff was familiar, at least to those keeping track of Turner’s radio performances and a few of his live ones, such as ‘Photosynthesis’ which has been sitting on his Myspace for quite a while now. It’s perfect single material – a catchy, sing-along chorus that is completely adept to his enthusiasm for the audience joining in at a gig, witty lyrics that questions why some people chose to photosynthesize instead of living and that familiar punky, hoarse voice that can come only from Turner.
In fact, on first listen there are quite a few tracks that immediately stand out. Opener ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ is another testament to his onlooker personality, standing amongst the people who he is performing for.
The title track sums him up perfectly, whimsically rhyming, “Well we’ve been a good few hours drinking/So I’m going to say what everyone’s thinking/If we’re stuck on this ship and it’s sinking/Then we might as well have a parade.” Proof that, despite swapping a microphone and screams for an acoustic guitar, his punk and hardcore attitude still shines through in his words.
However, Turner uses his album to get a few issues close to his heart off his chest, and I’m not talking about politics here. Some of the best tracks on his previous effort were where he poured his heart out into his music, writing honest lyrics about his personal struggles with relationships, or the lack thereof. And once again, the highlight for me on this album is where he strips any ego or persona and writes a heart wrenching song about an event which has rocked his emotional world. ‘Long Live the Queen’ is this song, a succinct three and a half minute long testimony to Lex, a friend of his who sadly lost her battle with cancer. What is most touching about the song is the refusal to hide behind metaphors and clever language tricks, which Frank is more than capable of. He remembers the events, and tells it as it is, which makes it all the more poignant.
For all his talent, there are a few tracks that struggle to find their place in the album. ‘To Take You Home’ is full of Irish spirit, but it seems to just pass you by as it reaches its plodding conclusion and closer ‘Jet Lag’ is a bit of a disappointment, Turner choosing to go solo on a piano. It all ends on quite a down note, unlike the uplifting end of ‘Sleep is for the Week’ which filled you with a sense of kinsmanship with this one man and his guitar. However, you can’t say that he isn’t trying something different, and if you are in the right mood the closer is a touching reflection on the woes of being away all the time.
This is a really good second effort from Turner, who has been capable of writing clever lyrics for a very long time. However, it almost seems a matter of the best tracks on here putting the others to shame. He is teeming with talent, and with ‘Love, Ire & Song’ Turner has proven that there is still a rich seam still to be mined for the future, and being not one to hang about, he’s surely writing the third album on the tour right at this very moment.