Reviewed by Henry Raby
For me, Frank Turner has always been (fittingly) about frankness. Being honest.
Instantly, this album is by and large Frank’s most folk-fuelled album. The Way I Tend To Be and Anyone has a delicate acoustic feel. In the past, his work has sounded like a man strumming his acoustic guitar with the ferocity of a hardcore punk band.
By contrast, Plain Sailing Weather stands out as an overloaded full-band track, but has the same issue I took with some Poetry of The Deed tracks, overproduced and a wall of sounds. Frank’s voice can compete, but it does make the track sound overly busy and lose the intimacy of the vocals. But this full-on rock sound doesn’t feature as heavily here.
In the past, Frank’s tenderness was filtered onto B-sides and EPs, little love songs for the fans eager to search out these little tracks. Now he has given us an entire album. It’s nothing new, but as a whole piece it feels overly tender and overly sweet. If you’re a fan of this intimacy of lyricism, you’ll enjoy the album, but at time it gets grating.
I seem to be dwelling on his past work a lot and comparing to earlier albums, but it’s because so does this album. Not only does he directly reference previous songs on The Fisher King Blues, but thematically it’s an album about things that have gone and his past. It’s an album about love, mostly lost love.
“Fuck You Hollywood for teaching us love was free and easy” he sings on Good & Gone. So what is Frank Turner teaching us about love? It’s a little bit miserable, it doesn’t always work out and it hurts.
I’ll be honest (and being honest is what Frank taught me), I found myself halfway through Tape Deck Heart before I wanted to wander away or flip to some other music. The first 6 tracks track filtering into one another, another moody offering with grim lyricism and downbeat lo-fi folk in the background, and just didn’t engage with me.
I think there’s an element him singing to specific people in his past, or ideas of people in his past, rather than directly to me, the listener.
I first heard Four Simple Words at Wembley Arena last year, and immediately it makes the whole album leap at the halfway point. Thematically it’s slotting neatly into the overwrought love arc of the album, but at least has the sense of the future, something so far quite lacking. Four Simple Words finally has Frank made a demand, which pins my attention for the rest of the sullen album.
Although I’ve heard the track prior to this album, that single moment when the drum roll comes in before the sudden burst of energy is electric, exciting and sudden feels like I’m listening to another Frank Turner album. Perfectly pitched, this track could make a crowd mosh to their heart’s content, or bop away, even if it’s pretty generic Turner-esque lyricism.
Polaroid Picture is a nice little follow-up but again, takes the energy levels down somewhat with talk of this past where everything was lovely and nice, but as he reminds us “everything changes” but in a negative way, as opposed to his upbeat onwards to victory style.
But, alas, I want to dance too Frank, and you’re album doesn’t make me want to dance, not only in the general genre sound, but also in the tone.
So I far be it from me to question Frank’s frankness on this album. It seems he’s all raged out about big ideas of growing up, England and punk. Now he just wants to spin love songs, and sadly his notion of love seems pained and drawn-out.