Thoughts On Frank Turner Songs – “Imperfect Tense”

By now I wish I had chosen an easier and maybe happier song to muse about in a first post of this potential blog series of “Frank Turner Appreciation Posts”. I had a first draft of this written on Sunday evening and just wanted to sleep on it for a night. During work on Monday something happened that made me think I probably should rewrite it and structure it differently. Which took some more time and today I wrote a third draft which is a lot like the first *sigh*

But as this was the song in which I just recently discovered yet another aspect I could relate to, I guess drudging on and trying to find the right words was worth it. All the time aware that not many people might read this. But it felt like a challenge I wanted to take on and I haven’t felt like that about potential content for this blog a lot recently, so here we go…

I can’t quite say when exactly this song became a bit more special to me than others of Frank’s equally amazing songs. I think, I’ve always liked the melody and rhythm and tempo of it. From the start I’ve also definitely loved the play on words with the term “Imperfect Tense”, which makes you think of a grammatical tense like “perfect tense” at first. In fact “imperfect” is indeed some kind of grammatical tense, which is more often called “past progressive / continuous” in English. We do have “Imperfekt” as a tense form in German, maybe that’s why I got and liked the pun of that title right away?

There is another play on words a few lines later with the term “present sense” as some kind of derivation of “present tense”. At least that’s the way I see it. But maybe Frank just liked the tense / sense rhyme?

What to say in my defense? I was imperfect, tense.
I used to have such balance, but I don’t know where it went.
So won’t you be my present sense?

Either way I really like the phonetic repetition of “defense – tense – sense” in this.

It’s not just these small stylistic devices though, which I like about these lyrics, but that it includes a few lines which pretty well sum up how I sometimes feel about myself.

What to say in my defense? I was imperfect, tense.
I used to have such balance, but I don’t know where it went
[….]
And I’ve nothing to say in my defense,
I’m far from perfect and I’m still tense.

I used those as quote for a blog post a few times, whenever I wrote about feeling overwhelmed or feeling weird or anxious for no apparently good reason. Because there isn’t always a good reason to feel weird or anxious. Often enough it’s just my mind running havoc with old insecurities.

Just yesterday I had one of these moments, when I thought I had made a mistake at my job (gave some incorrect information in a press statement) and started beating myself up about it, even though on some level I knew, that it probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the information had been incorrect. Which – as I later found out – it hadn’t even been in the first place. But by then I had spent quite some time feeling pretty tense about my imperfection. And I do that a lot of times. Too many times.

And when I hear Frank Turner sing these lines I’m often still baffled that this guy who lives a life so different from mine and who has done things in such a different way than I have and who sometimes seems to be so different from me personality wise, still seems to have experienced or still experiences the same fears and anxieties and emotions as I do. And I don’t believe it’s just him and me. There are more of us, right?

From the start Frank’s lyrics were a huge part of what drew me to his music. His amazing ability to put the right – beautiful and not generic – words together to describe the mess our minds and hearts sometimes can be. There are many more songs like this one, where I hear some of his words and think “Yes, exactly!” And I’ve honestly never experienced that with any other songwriter before.

The song itself is basically about Frank’s times of some pretty heavy drug and alcohol use, which he also very openly talks a bit about in the earlier chapters of “The Road Beneath My Feet”. Not a cheery topic at all and not something I could relate to, because I have never been there / done that. But a few days ago something about the following lines kind of hit me for the first time:

Trying to remember my reasons for running myself
Into the ground with such dedication.

Because even though I might never have nor do I use drugs to avoid or escape certain difficult aspects of my life, I do have developed habits of avoidance that aren’t really that much better. Less unhealthy or lethal than drugs and alcohol, but not really helpful in the long run either and just recently I do sometimes feel like I’m running myself or at least my self-esteem into the ground with these habits.

When I feel overwhelmed with life or a task I should tackle (or a blog post I want to write *g*) I sometimes spent way too much time procrastinating. Reading. Watching TV shows. Re-Reading. Re-watching old episodes of TV shows. Spending my time refreshing Twitter to see what others are up to and if I could engage with someone. Playing games on my phone. Thinking things like “Hey, I really should replace my smartphone soon” (for whatever reason my mind can come up) and spending half a day of my day off researching which phone I would like and could afford and compare models and prices and such. And I don’t really need a new phone yet!

I could get so much done in the time I do all those things and yet… every once in a while I just can’t bring myself to get a grip on myself and deal with the stuff on my neverending to-do-list. And after yet another day or weekend on which I haven’t really gotten anything done and have spent way too much time with mindless diversion, I beat myself up for being such a slacker. But beating myself up doesn’t make me feel better. On the contrary. Beaten-up me doesn’t really feel motivated to do better tomorrow. Or next week. And the cycle continues.

Before anyone gets worried now, after some time I always snap out of this mood and get a grip on myself and stop beating myself up so much for my shortcomings. And I really start to do better the next day. And next week. And….

But hearing these lines and making some kind of connection to them really just has been a bit of an eye-opening moment recently, which made me appreciate this song even more and in yet another way.

Oh dear, even the third draft of this post sounds a bit depressing. Sorry! I will choose a more cheerful song for my next “Musing on…” post and will then concentrate on the beautiful poetry in Frank’s lyrics. Which is something that can be appreciated without all the existential emotional introspection ;-)

Here are more of my thoughts on Frank Turner songs

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