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There are so many singer songwriters around these days that you seemingly can't turn the radio on without hearing one. With this ever increasing number it means the quality of output is becoming somewhat diluted, however one artist who continues to produce a high quality of song and music is Frank Turner. The English singer songwriter has really made a name for himself since leaving his previous band in 2006 and the release of this, his third full studio album continues that rise to prominence.
But Who is Frank Turner
Not many of the current batch of Singer Songwriters can claim to have gone to Eton alongside Prince William, however that is just one part of Frank Turner's backstory. The former Million Dead frontman has a very interesting backstory, however it would appear that despite having a grandfather who owned BHS and having been schooled alongside William, that Turner is creating a whole new identity for himself. He writes some of the best folk punk and alternative rock available at the moment and as he continues to create albums his writing, vocal range and musical ability all seem to be developing.
Creating A Style
There aren't many singers who can really do the political, folk, punk rock genre justice but it would be fair to say that Turner is really defining the genre with his mixture of acoustic melodies and intelligent lyrics that are as far as I've heard unrivalled. His vocals are strong and distinctive, which gives him a unique edge over the competition. The mixture of slower paced acoustic numbers and heavier, rockier portions make this a very rounded album that blends really well together.
Poetry Of the Dead
This is the third album by Frank Turner I bought and from those original three studio albums they seem to be getting better and better. It's clear on this album from the opening bars of "Live Fast, Die Old" that this is a crisper offering than the previous albums; however nothing of the sound and the quality of Turners vocals and musical intent are lost through the additional production. From the start this is a faster paced track that kicks things off well and provides a nice, positive message to really kick things off with.
The opening section of the album has a more upbeat, faster beat than on previous albums and "Try This At Home" and "Dan's Song" continue the quality and early faster pace very well. They are both slightly different sounding tracks that once again really show Turner's ability to write a clever, well thought out track. From the albums opening tracks there are clear influences from Bruce Springsteen, The Levellers and Bob Dylan, including a harmonica section to "Dan's Song". Even the album's title track "Poetry Of The Deed" continues the faster paced opening.
It's not until "Isabel" that things really slow down with a very poignant track. The lyrics are clear and crisp and really set a story in place. The pace of the track really suits the lyrics and the vocal approach that Turner takes here really well. Perhaps the best example of Turner's ability to write a clever, well thought out track is "Sons Of Liberty". It's a slower paced track that turns the focus onto a political group who were active during the American Revolution. I think this real highlights how talented a songwriter Turner is, as I can't imagine too many other artists who could write an informative, clever track about the American Revolution that fits in with the tone of their album and educates at the same time.
Perhaps that's the key of Turner's success. He combines very well thought out lyrics with catchy pieces of music that really compliment his vocals well, whilst making for something that is enjoyable to listen to. My favourite track on the album was also the first single to be released from this album, "The Road". It has a solid beat that remains constant throughout, mixing well with the guitars and a very catchy lyrical content. It's a track that sums up the third release by Frank Turner well and highlighted once again his vocal, writing and musical credentials.
Live Fast, Die Old
Looking back through my iTunes library it would be pretty safe to assume that this is an album I like to listen to. Along with Turner's first two albums this is amongst the most played on my iPod and for good reason. It is a solid album with a good mixture of up-tempo and slower tracks mixed with a blend of clever lyrical content and impressive musical ability. The tempo changes on the album are in the right places and there really isn't a weak track on the album. It's a good blend of folk, punk rock that works really well. With the recent release of his fourth album I think it's fair to say that Turner is here to stay and on the evidence of this and his other albums that can only be a good thing for the British music scene.
This is a review of Winchester's up-to-now very fine Frank Turner, and his most recent offering from September 2009. His style is a mix of folk, punk, and a lot of heartfelt, delightfully simple lyrics.
I was full of anticipation for this album, having been a huge fan of 2005's 'Sleep is for the Week' and also having enjoyed very much 2008's 'Love, Ire & Song'.
This album kicks off with 'Live Fast, Die Old', which is an upbeat and fiery punk-rock declaration of Frank's manifesto.
'Try This at Home' ups the tempo even more, and explains exactly Frank's vision of what punk rock should mean. It expresses frustration with apathy and with people looking up to stars just because they happen to be on stage: "there's no such thing as rock stars, there's just people who play music" is delivered with a punch.
'Dan's Song' is a little slower, in my opinion what Frank does best: just him and his guitar, and lyrics about friendship and growing older: "we're drifting through our middle days, drifting into middle age". It's a simple song but this doesn't detract from its quality.
'Poetry of the Deed' is shares its title with the album. It expresses the idea of being what you believe, and acting rather than just sitting around talking or writing about it. Sadly this idea is lost a little in the music, which involves the whole band, rather than just Frank and his guitar. It seems a track designed for playing to live audience, and in my opinion this does not work especially well as a recording.
'Isabel', by contrast, is a song about love and life: "and so the world has changed, but my hope remains, in the arms of Isabel". Again, the melodies are very simple, but here although it really works, I can't help feeling he could've done more with the beautiful lyrics. Here finally Frank seems a little vulnerable after all of the conviction of the previous tracks "and I'll admit that I'm afraid of what I don't understand..". It's a little disappointing and feels a little unfinished.
The next track starts quietly, but 'the Fastest Way Back Home' doesn't really fulfill its promise - it is average at best, really. Not particularly memorable, either lyrically or musically.
'Sons Of Liberty', despite its attempt to bring back Billy Bragg in its folky melodies and politically impassioned lyrics seems a little try-hard. For die-hard fans of Frank's politics only, really.
Single 'the Road' is a catchy melody whose lyrics express a love for his lifestyle and crazy touring schedule: "only being shackled to the road will ever I be free" he sings with conviction, and it's hard not to believe him.
'Faithful Son' is an example of what Frank Turner does best: simply a guitar, and Frank singing his heart out about something he clearly cares about a great deal. The result is beautiful. Definitely a standout moment.
'Richard Divine' begins with a quite a graphic, disturbing tale of suicide, followed by Frank's rant about what a ridiculous thing that was to do: "they're not heroes, they're survivors, and it's not Shakespearian if you lose". It is very different musically to anything Frank has done previously, and I have to say that although unusual, it works. The lyrics may be a little graphic but they are very well put-together.
'Sunday Nights' starts quietly and acoustically, with Frank singing about everyday life in a way that means everyone can relate. The addition of piano sounds to the acoustic guitar really adds something to the chorus. A decent track.
'Our Lady of the Campfires' is an odd one, which begins with a piano solo and then bursts into a curious song with lyrics that don't make a great deal of sense to me. Not bad: there is an interesting touch of adding strings through the chorus, which actually sounds really good. Apart from this touch, it's difficult to feel any more than indifference towards this track, as I just don't 'get' the lyrics.
Finally, lovely acoustic 'Journey of the Magi'. Another just Frank and his guitar, and simple, trademark lyrics of great intelligence. It finishes with the inspiring words "be what you dream, and take to the road".
This album sees Frank reaching out to the mainstream, and it appears to be working for him. Sadly this detracts from his initial originality. He seems to have become just another singer-songwriter type, albeit with slightly more fiery lyrics and ideas.
I was disappointed, mostly because he'd set himself such a high standard with 'Love Ire & Song'. That is not to say there aren't any great tracks on this album; there certainly are, but it seems that he's lost himself a little in all of the increasing success he's enjoying. I don't begrudge him his success, but I liked the old Frank!
My months of waiting are finally over.
I have sat, with eager ears, awaiting the third studio release from the one and only Frank Turner, pretty much ever since he performed a new song in January, when I saw him live in Cambridge. I hadn't heard much from him over the year, until July time, when I was working in Chesterton. Stood, digging up a patio - I heard the radio song change, and a familiar voice came across me. I dropped the pick axe, and stood in awe. A new song - a great one at that. I then went online and saw the release date of the album was scheduled.
Since his last album, Frank has been a busy chap, and this summer was the opening act for the Offspring. Bringing the awesomeness that is the real Frank Turner, to the USA. One gig, would have been amazing to attend - Frank Turner, Dropkick Murphy's and The Offspring - how can you beat that?
== Let's Inherit the Earth...==
I was as eager as hell to get this album. It was the most anticipated record of the year for me (closely followed by Brand New's "Daisy"). So, it was off to HMV at the earliest possible time, to grab a copy - at the perfect price of £9.99 (£8.99 online). It comes in the cardboard sleeve thingy, and the cover is a great picture of a guitar and birds - more artistic than his previous offerings. The back of the case features another sketch, this time, with the lyrics from the title track "We are what we believe". This particular image, is incredible, and as soon as I saw it, I decided it is going to (hopefully) be my first tattoo.
Opening up, there is the shiny CD, with the same artwork as the front, and the track listing. In a little sleeve piece, you then have two things. Firstly, is the standard lyric booklet, so you can learn all the words for when you go and see him on his October Tour! There is also a little poster, one side with the album artwork, the other a shot of him singing to a small crowd. It is just what I would put on my wall, did I not want to preserve its awesomeness.
Only one thing was left - playing it!
== Poetry of the Deed ==
'''Live Fast Die Old'''
I first heard this back in January. It has been improved for the record. It starts off with a symbol drum beat, and a little piano melody before the guitars come in. Straight off, you can hear that this is heavier album that Frank's previous offerings, and his acoustic guitar is a mere addition - not the lead it was in previous songs. His voice continues to carry the same edge of enthusiasm for what he is singing - perfect! The music is great, a strong drum beat sits behind the whole track, and the bass line has a deep and clear rhythm, which is also really catchy. If you want to start off on a high - well here you have how to do it.
The lyrics are really good too, speaking of how he doesn't want to give up. It is pretty much the theme of the album - his friend apparently said to him something about how they shouldn't have to grow up, and "why can't we be cool until we're old men" and it really stuck with him.
_It won't last so be bold_
_Live Fast and Die Old_
_Choose your path_
_Live Fast and Die Old_
'''Try this at Home'''
It comes in with a 1,2,3,4 and a high pitched wail from the guitar, it sounds great. The song immediately hits pace, Frank singing perfectly to the catchy tune behind. Bu the time it hits the chorus, you are completely hooked. I first head this on his Myspace just after I got back from Newquay. I fell in love with it instantly - there is such a great sound to it which just makes it incredible. It is really short too, not managing to reach 2 minutes - which is disappointing, since it is such a dazzling tune. Only two tracks in, and already it is beyond clear that Frank is still hitting it hard, and hasn't lost a morsel of his talent.
Moving back to the acoustic numbers now. It is a traditional Frank and his guitar piece, sweet chords played perfectly and Frank's voice really carrying the song. It is a simple number, and in full honesty, it is, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album. There is a section which is played on the harmonica, and for some reason, it really doesn't sit well with me, though the following verses are great. Considering this is what I think is the weakest number, and it is still pretty decent - just shows how awesome the guy is..
'''Poetry of The Deed'''
The title track, it opens into an awesome full band sound. The tune is immediately a hit with me, and what it slides into carries a deep anticipation, it is leading you closer to the chorus. Frank's voice is on top form, and by the time the chorus rolls in, you are beyond hooked. It is an instant favourite. With various poetic references, and generally flawless lyrics, it is another case where Frank is proving why he is rising in popularity so well. It is a masterpiece of a song, and musically has many great layers. It is one song I cannot wait to see performed live.
_So enough with words and technical theses, _
_let's grab life by the throat and live it to pieces. _
_ We can choose, we can change, _
_and if we don't, we're just afraid _
_of living life like we're loved and in love and alive_
_ to all the things we could be if we just believed _
_that life is too short to be lived without poetry._
Opening with the rising sounds of a piano, or distant guitars. It soon jumps to a strong drum lead piece, with a strange overdriven guitar sitting quietly in the background. It is a different sound to Frank, a ballad in a form not like much of his previous work - but definitely still packing the punch he delivers. It has a great flow to it, and it is another track that I listen to over and over again. Frank's voice has a sombre emotion lying behind it which is possibly what allures me to this song so firmly. Whatever it is, it's a solid track which continues my theory of Frank being awesome.
'''The Fastest Way Back Home'''
You first think we have another acoustic piece, until the piano pieces stumble in, paving the way for the rest of the band, and especially a nice little guitar riff, which fades nobly out for the verses. Yet again, it is another track which sounds like Frank has moved in a slightly different direction, and it certainly isn't backwards! The chorus here is has a great tune to it, and it has been getting stuck in my head all day. I suppose it is essentially a love song, but with the added twist of the problem made from Frank being so far away all the time.
_Weather wears the mountains_
_Right down into the sea_
_So I will stand in the rain_
_Until I am clean_
_Rivers carve the country_
_A Landscape shaped by a stream_
_So I will swim in the river as long as you need_
'''Sons of Liberty'''
Another song opening dominantly with Frank's trusty acoustic guitar. A deep bass line and drum beat join him, this being a much more traditional Frank piece. His voice sits proudly above the music, and the song has a steady progression to a bit of full band glory, with a piano and some electric guitar - there is even a great little piece with a fiddle which adds a real swagger feel to the track - much like some of the Flogging Molly I like. It is another strong track which is sure to become well listened to over the next few weeks.
The instantly infectious track which is the first single from the album! It opens with Frank straight away, accompanied by his guitar, singing the first chorus of the song, before it opens up into the full band, with an awesome bass line that sounds like it is lifted from a Johnny Cash song - it has that strong carryingness to it. The little jangles of electric guitar over the sound of Franks acoustic sound incredible. The chorus at it comes around again- even more catchy than the first time round. There is a great change of sound in the middle of the song, a little instrumental piece before the real fire inside of Frank comes out. It was the song that was stuck in my head all through my trip to Newquay and I was craving hearing it again when the album was out. If you need just one reason to buy this whole album - then it is this one track.
_So saddle up your horses now and keep your powder dry_
_Because the truth is you won't be here long_
_Yeah soon your going to die_
_To the heart, to the heart there's no time for you to waste_
_You wont find your precious answers now by staying in one place_
_Yeah by giving up the chase_
Now, flick over to YouTube and listen to it as you read on...
Another soft opener, with Frank and a softly played riff, it keeps quiet, but Frank's voice contains that gentle sombreness that I love. He is soon joined with a little bass and drum, not too much which would overthrow the song - the perfect amount. The band practiced and tuned the tracks on this album outstandingly, creating a divine balance. It is a very simple song in presentation, which makes it hard to write about, but I really love this song it is beautifully melodic and another of my immediate favourites, and yet another reason to get this album.
It opens with an annoying little sound, which thankfully dissipates into the guitar. It sounds like a slightly different style yet again, the music sounds really rigid behind it - but slides off into little acoustic sections which sound awesome. My friend, and fellow Frank Turner fanatic, dislikes this song due to it being a bit too "indie" for his tastes. I can see what he means, but still really enjoy the song (well, I do like indie, so maybe that is why.) It isn't a song that outshines others, but it certainly stands shoulder to shoulder on the frontiers with the other songs.
Yet again, we open with Frank and his guitar, in a rather common and unappealing way. But it soon grows on you, and from being a track I skipped to start with, it is now something I certainly enjoy listening to. There is a beauty to it, in it's subtleness and its simplicity. It is a stand out track for sure. The choruses get better each time round, and with the addition of the piano, they sound almost epic. It is a real late night song, the sort of thing I can imagine listening to in the fiery depths of a morning, as the clock is rolling around to 4 o'clock, and you still haven't slept, just say up with friends drinking all night long...
'''Our Lady of the Campfires'''
A piano opening, with a gradual increase, as the drum beat comes in - just a soft clatter on the cymbal - until Frank opens us up with the first line and the music really begins. It has a nice string arrangement in it, which works really well in carrying the song. For the most of the song though, I am not hugely strung, it is OK sure, but it doesn't have the usual Frank flare of amazingness. However hit the midway marker, a little breakdown piece, and it gets that flare, from then on, I love the song! You can hear passion in his voice, the music holds it all together perfectly, and all in all it has the ingredients for a great track. Does the second half make up for the first? Certainly.
'''Journey of the Magi'''
How do you finish off a great album? A question I am sure many artists stumble on. Frank doesn't. He opts for a simple piece, just him and his guitar for the most part. Opening with such a gentle guitar, that it is at first hard to hear under his voice, but such a strong opening. It has this simplicity which is so strong it doesn't need anything to go with it. Come half way, a scratch from the drums enters, and some harmonising vocals, as the next verse rolls around, a string arrangement comes in - and you had thought the song could get no better! It is building this amazing feel to it, and the lyrics sit so firmly above it all, Frank's voice delivering them so perfectly. He closes the song with the perfect sentiments to sum up the whole album:
_Paupers and Kings, Princes and Thieves,_
_Singers of songs, righters of wrongs_
_Be what you believe_
_So saddle your horse, and shoulder your load_
_Burst at the seams_
_Be What you dream_
_And take to the road_
== Let's do this once and Let's do it Right ==
_Frank sang it, and he meant it._
Admittedly the album took me a couple of listens to really get into, and through that, my whole feelings of the songs changed, and early favourites have grown. Frank set out to create an album which essentially says that you should keep living and in his own words "keep being cool, keep having fun, and keep being reckless". I think he has certainly achieved that.
There is an incredible collection of tracks here, from real upbeat numbers, such as "The Road" and "Live Fast, Die Old", which show the full band off to the extreme, they pack such a punch and will be awesome tracks to see live. Then, he adds a few slower pieces, "Sunday Nights" and "Faithful Son" being two more outstanding songs, then take another load of soft and heavier tracks.
I knew I wouldn't be disappointed with it. I knew that Frank would never let me down - and he didn't. He has produced yet another great album, and has left me yearning for more, looking forward to whenever he next gets an album out! Already, this album has been on repeat for the last 3 days, and I don't see it coming off for a good while yet!
If you have read my previous three Frank Turner reviews then you will know how much I love the music this guy makes, from his early days, of real folk rock, just him and his guitar, leading up to this, where he has merged more with his touring band. He hasn't lost one spark of the genius he injects into every word he writes, and every chord he plays. If this is the first time you have heard of him, you have really been missing out. If you have read my previous reviews, and thought about listening to him, but never got around to it - do it now.
Frank is an incredible singer, songwriter, performer whatever you want to call him, the passion he injects, the wit the, well everything about him, is great, and he has manifested this into an album. In short - I cannot wait to see him in Manchester in October!!!
Ladies and gentlemen...introducing a little known man who goes by the name of Frank Turner - a singer songwriter hailing from London, with his third studio album; Poetry of the Deed. Anyone who's a fan of good music, read on...
His first two helpings of delicious of folk-cum-indie-acoustic rock music were anthemic and created a large buzz on the 'scene'. His debut; Sleep is for the Week, combined big sing-a-long choruses and lyrics of everyday life. His second outing; Love, Ire & Song did it all again but with more maturity, with heartfelt lyrics and complex song structures. Poetry of the Deed takes these two formulas and makes a great combination.
The album's opener; Live Fast Die Old, is somewhat different to much of his previous solo work and emphasises his close-knit band which he works along side now during his live shows. The jingly piano intro is different to most of his previous tracks but once Turner's vocal chords enter then you know exactly where you are - In the secure hands of a Frank Turner song.
The second track on the album; Try This At Home, has a ska/punk theme to it, not too dissimilar to Turner's previous work with punk band Million Dead - those who followed his work this far back will be pleased to hear tracks such as this, but some won't be too overly keen on first listen...but fear not, it'll grow on you as it'll highlight the sing-a-long style which he loves, and for anyone lucky enough to have seen him live, will fully appreciate too.
People often judge bands and their latest albums on what they've done new compared to previous work, and whether or not it works. This album clearly indicates that Turner wants to take his music forward onto new audiences with his full backing band. Songs from Love, Ire & Song slowly leaked onto the playlists of XFM, Absolute and even Radio One at times, and the first single off Poetry of the Deed; The Road, has received as much airplay as any of his previous singles, so the move is clearly working commercially.
Tracks such as Isabel and The Fastest Way Back Home highlight the layers to his music with pianos and extra guitars adding to him and his acoustic axe. The Road is clearly a single track with it's anthemic chorus, as are the album's title track and Live Fast Die Old. They may be slightly more distorted and electric to what some fans will be used to, but you know that when played live they could be great.
Other highlights on the album include Richard Divine; a story of a suicide attempt which Turner turns into a lyrical piece of art like he did with tracks such as Long Live The Queen from Love, Ire & Song. Some of the tracks do seem to fall a little flat and short of his high standards towards the end of the album, which ultimately leaves it at 4 stars rather than 5. But if it was a full album of singles then this would surely be the album which makes Frank Turner an a-list name.
Compared with his other work, after a couple of listens I'd have to say the album doesn't quite meet the high standard I've come to expect from Turner. That being said, the quality of music he's produced here is very high, showing the maturity you expect to see. Perhaps I'm just the old romantic who would have liked him to stick to just himself and his acoustic guitar for the most part rather than complicate matters. However, you've to give it to the man - he knows how to write a good song. Buy this and enjoy it. Buy his previous work and enjoy it even more.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Live Fast Die Old
2 Try This At Home
3 Dan's Song
4 Poetry Of The Deed
6 The Fastest Way Back Home
7 Sons Of Liberty
8 The Road
9 Faithful Son
10 Richard Divine
11 Sunday Nights
12 Our Lady Of The Campfire
13 Journey Of The Magi