Frank Turner – [Album]

Friday, 10 June 2011

When Frank Turner released Poetry Of The Deed in 2009, he set the bar pretty high for expectations of him when he'd return with his next album. The singer had yelled and crooned his brand of parking lot sage wisdom and dropped bars of gold into songs like “Try This At Home,” “Live Fast, Die Old,” “Poetry Of The Deed” and “Fastest Way Back Home” almost carelessly and watched happily as listeners scrambled to pick up every last one, take them home and keep them dearly. It was a fantastic act of generosity – but how does one follow it? Two years later, fans finally get their answer in the form of England Keep My Bones – an album that is as personal as it is public insofar as it intertwines some pretty personal ruminations on life and where the singer's own might be headed with some of the hands-down biggest, most anthemic musical turns in his songbook.

Listeners will be knocked ass-over-tea-kettle as “Eulogy” takes a minute to warm up with some reflective-sounding and warm horns and confessions (“Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut/ Not everyone grows up to be a king/ Not everyone can be Freddy Mercury/ But everyone can raise a glass and sing”) and totally disarms them right away with his candor. The way they're delivered, the lyrics feel as though they're pointed specifically at a particular person/people (parents maybe?) and, in spite of the weakness in their knees, listeners will be able to side with the singer as they recall the hopes and dreams that someone may have had for them, but abandoned when it became clear that they were a hopeless cause. It's the sweetest calling together anyone could hope for; solid ground where everyone comes together and shares in the sensation, because everyone knows it well.

…And then the song explodes with enormous, heavy-handed and bombastic guitars, and Turner petulantly knocks listeners flat with this brutal response: “Well I haven't always been a perfect person/ I haven't done what Mum and Daddy dreamed/ But on the day I die, I'll say at least I fucking tried/ That's the only eulogy I need.”

It might sound petulant – it might sound cold or contrary – but those who hear it will be believers after they pick themselves up off the ground. Father Frank is at the pulpit and he's speaking directly to those of the right mind who are in turn absorbing and being empowered by the radiant energy that flies off of every word.

The singer doesn't let his congregation down either. On England Keep My Bones, Turner drops more sage wisdom on listeners through songs including “Peggy Sang The Blues” (where “It doesn't matter where you come from, it matters where you go”), “I Still Believe” (where Turner calls punks, skins and journeymen to the dingy, grimy clubs where rock n' roll shows happen to find a bit of salvation and absolution), “I Am Disappeared” (featuring dreams of pioneers and pirate ships and Bob Dylan,” and other such people “wrapped tight in the things that will kill them”) and “One Foot Before The Other” (which imagines being cremated and thrown into local drinking reservoirs in hopes of affecting change from the inside out) which don't exploit the mark that Poetry made – they stand steadier, firmer and more confidently on the same base without leaning on the past success of it. In effect, while Poetry spent a lot of time bravely asking “Why don't we?” or “Can't we?” England Keep My Bones plays with the knowledge that anything and everything is possible, and both singer and band invite listeners to view the world with the same mindset. Many of the characters in these songs need that kind of reassurance (not unlike the people listening) and Turner provides it but, if that doesn't catch, the band (which is a bit thicker and beefier in sound now) swaggers out to offer some assistance.

As the record progresses, Turner gives one last scream of affirmation that, yes, he'll always be true (in “If Ever I Stray”) before beginning to balance out and calm his temper until, by “Glory Hallelujah,” the singer has returned to center with a state of grace that is just lovely.

Through this run-time, one gets the impression that Frank Turner wasn't sure who he needed to be and if he should have changed after Poetry Of The Deed, so he pushed himself pretty hard and gave listeners the biggest thank-you he could but, in the end, he's just himself again because that's all he could ever really be. That arc and the honesty of it is what listeners will treasure – if in a different way than they did with Poetry Of The Deed. If still rewarding though; on England Keep My Bones, Frank Turner simultaneously reveals his appreciation for the attention he's received and tried to answer it, but also tries to do himself one better. It works – in listening, anyone who hears England Keep My Bones will feel as though they owe the singer a debt of thanks.



England Keep My Bones
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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