My Thoughts on Frank Turner’s “Poetry of the Deed” (2009)

I had about 85% of this post written exactly four weeks ago during my vacation in Edinburgh and had planned to publish the finished post a few days later. But then I climbed a mountain and then I couldn’t be bothered getting my tablet out of the suitcase and then I was back home and there was work and stuff and… *sigh* 

On Thursday 7th September, the day I travelled to Edinburgh, Frank had tweeted that it was the 8th birthday (so to speak) of  Poetry of the Deed”. I don’t often listen to any album in full these days, it’s mostly shuffle or playlists of favourite songs and such. But when I went to Portobello Beach that Saturday, I still was in “Yay Lost Evenings 2 tickets” mode from the day before, so I decided to celebrate by listening to this album in full; sitting on a wall at Portobello Beach, a coffee next to me, watching the waves and the clouds and the dogs and the children…

When I first got into Frank’s music four years ago, I bought all available albums at once and basically listened to all the songs or at least my favourite ones mixed up with each other. I still can’t say with certainty which song is from which album prior to Tape Deck Heart which had come out a few months before I “discovered” Frank. Positive Songs for Negative People in 2015 was the first album I experienced and listened to in a “from start to finish” sense and I wrote a review post about that album then. Halfway through listening to Poetry of the Deed I thought it’d be a nice try to get back into filling this blog with some more content by doing something similar for Poetry of the Deed.  Albeit with a four week delay now.

A few songs on this album I love a lot. Some I don’t really care about. I have to admit I have this issue with Frank’s previous albums too and I know Frank himself is self-critical about Poetry of the Deed as well. I’m pretty sure though that his points of critique are very different from mine. I’m not a musician or a songwriter and I can’t say anything about it from that point of view. I mean I literally can not, as I not only lack the knowledge but also the vocabulary. So this is just a very subjective view of what I enjoy to listen to and can relate to. Or not.

01. Live Fast, Die Old ★★★☆☆
It won’t last so be bold
Live fast, die old
Choose your path, show soul
Live fast, die old

This works very well as album opener for me. This album was the first one recorded with the full band which came to be named the Sleeping Souls later on and this song is a good demonstration of how much more powerful (but also more mainstream pop/rock) his music can sound like. I can’t fully relate to the mindset of this song, but it’s still a nice fast one to listen to.

02. Try This At Home ★★★★★
Because there’s no such thing as rock stars,
There’s just people who play music,
And some of them are just like us,
And some of them are dicks.

It’s one of my favourite songs from this album, especially live, as it definitely always gets the crowd dancing and moving and partying. There are so many great lines to sing along too very loudly. By now this song also has me conditioned in the way that both my hands instinctively “give the finger” at the end of the quoted lyrics. This impulse always makes me smile a bit. I can not stop my foot or hand from tapping along whenever I listen to it either.

03. Dan’s Song ★★★★☆
But now it’s time to decide; now it’s time to draw a line
In the sand and ask what’s more important than days like today?

Here’s another song that works great live, especially when a fan or friend/family member is asked on stage to do the harmonica solo. These moments brings out Frank’s qualities as an entertainer, I think and I always enjoy them, even though yes, I know this routine by heart by now :-)

Is it just a bit quirky or bordering on pathetic, that I still can very much relate to this song even though I’m already in my 40s? But I honestly sometimes think I still haven’t figured out how to adult properly, compared to other people of my age. At least career and relationship-wise…

04. Poetry of the Deed ★★★★★
Let’s grab life by the throat and then 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

Another one my favourite songs on this album. Another song where I can’t really in full relate to what the song is about or to the people or time in Frank’s life this is about. Some of the lyrics are still too complicated for me to sing along to and some feel overly artistic, in a bit pretentious kind of way. But there also are some lyrics which I love and adore and can relate to. Words to inspire and to live up to. I mean…. My blog title is taken from this! The song also has got a very powerful sound and I love listening to it. It’s not played live often enough in my humble opinion and thus I’m quite happy to still have heard it a few times already….

05. Isabel ★★★★☆
And I’ll admit that I am scared of what I don’t understand.
But darling, if you’re there, gentle voice and soothing hands

Such a lovely love song. It might be Frank’s most mainstream (suitable for radio) song up to this point. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing. I’m also quite glad that according to Frank after all these years and Tape Deck Heart Isabel and him are friend-ly with each other again, because that means he is willing to play that song live every once in a while.

06. The Fastest Way Back Home ★★★☆☆
Darling, oh my darling, you know that everything that I do
Is to try and make me good enough for you.

While listening to the complete album I realized that I had underrated that song for a long time. It’s another lovely love song, even thought it might not sound like it at first, as it’s more mid-tempo and not a ballad or such. The music didn’t really grab me at first, which might might be why I didn’t notice the lovely lyrics at first.

07. Sons of Liberty ★★★☆☆
Watt Tyler led the people in 1381
To meet the king at Smithfield to issue this demand:
That Winchester’s should be the only law across the land,
The law of old King Alfred’s time, of free and honest men.

Like “Glory Hallelujah” this is one of the songs I’m on the fence about. Frank brings his point across very well, it great songwriting and I love the whole instrumentation as it’s a powerful backing voice to his message. I love the strings and the sing along invitation at the end. I just don’t quite agree with the message of this song. I’m a lefty after all and I still think some kind of government is and works better than libertarian anarchy. But that’s just me :-)

08. The Road ★★★★★
And the nights, a thousand nights I’ve played, a thousand more to go,
Before I take a breath and steel myself for the next one thousand shows.

I hope this song will never ever be retired from the live set. It’s Frank in a nutshell. Lyric and music wise and I just love it. Because it’s so him. Also because it’s so much fun live. It’s another song I always have to tap or move along to. And by now it’s another ingrained habit of mine to sing (or at least think) “one more fucking time” before the last chorus.

09. Faithful Son ★★★★☆
Lately I’ve been feeling kind of fragile
Lately I’ve been feeling all worn out

When I first gathered my thoughts about this I wanted to say that I can’t quite relate to this particular “child – parents” dynamic. But on second thought I realized, that of course I could. In my own way anyway, because even though I’m not straying too far from the professional path my parents probably had seen me on, I know I’m also not quite the daughter my Mum probably figured she would raise. And as a teenager / young adult I reject quite few of her notions of what a woman’s role is quite vehemently. I’m happy to say that we made our peace with each other a long time ago :-)

10. Richard Divine ★☆☆☆☆
He said he’s not for sale, said that he felt hounded,
Crowded and surrounded by this life he didn’t choose

The one positive thing I can say about this song, is that I like how this song ventures into quite different territory sound and music wise. But I’m still not sure what to actually think of this tale about a young man’s (attempted?) suicide. What is Frank’s message here? It all feels a bit weird and accusatory in a way, like blaming the suicide victim for killing himself or for not being able to deal with the problems of his life. I might be getting the wrong vibe from this song, but somehow it doesn’t feel or sound like the Frank, I got to “know” in the past four years; the one who’s very vocal about fighting the stigma around mental health issues and male suicide and such. Maybe this discrepancy is what’s bothering me most with this song.

11. Sunday Nights ★☆☆☆☆
This is one of the songs I’m very indifferent about. I can’t even choose a lyrical quote. I don’t really dislike it, but I think it sounds a bit boring. To me. And I can’t relate to what it’s about at all. I never was the party all weekend kind of girl.

12. Our Lady of the Campfire ★★☆☆☆
Tonight is her night,
And the city holds its breath,
Caught twixt life and death,

Another song that doesn’t really mean anything to me nor can I really relate to it, but I kind of like the sound of it. And I hadn’t heard of Celtic queen Boudicea and her fight against the Romans before, so that at least was another educational moment.

13. Journey of the Magi ★★★★★
Singers of songs, righters of wrongs, be what you believe.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times that I have to write a “Thought on Songs” post about this song. And I did try to work out why I love this song so much. Especially the live version, because at some point it always gets this cool “Gregorian choir” vibe for me. Realizing that I lack both linguistic and musical knowledge and terminology to analyse the art (poetry and music) of this song, kept me from actually writing this post yet. I did start “analysing” it though and could now tell you that there are 48 syllables (or beats) in each verse and 36 in each version of the chorus :-). Like I said, I so do not know the right words to discuss it.

As the musical ignoramus that I am, I just admire this piece of songwriting: to have put these words and the melody so evenly, beautifully rhythmically together. I mean he is singing “played” like a two-syllable word for a reason, right? I also love all the historical context and just the sound of words like “Egyptian Prince”. Yes, I’m a nerd, sometimes. As the geographical nerd that I also am I have to admit though that I did not realize that “Balthazar roamed [….] eastwards” is quite wrong geographically, until it was mentioned in a podcast with Frank recently :-)

Here is a live version of it, just with Matt on the keys, not the full band, sadly. It’s still a beautiful version, because you can hear the audience sing along so well.

1 Comment

  1. ‪This is my favourite Frank record. It’s taken me a while to realise but it’s my go to music when I’m driving and I think several of the songs are amongst his best – Journey for one. I think Our Lady of the Campfire is superb musically – it is one of those songs that sounds perfect to me. Can’t wait to hear it live one day.

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