Thoughts on “England Keep My Bones” by Frank Turner, 2011

Yesterday I mentioned that some time ago I had listened to “England Keep My Bones” track-by-track and realized what a wonderful album it is as a whole. I also mentioned that I had planned to share a few thoughts on this. So here is my review kind of post. Only 10 days after I had the idea to write it… 

01. Eulogy ★★★★☆
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury,
But everyone can raise a glass and sing.

I didn’t remember that this was an album opener and it works so very well here, being all soft at first and then the full band joins in with a bang.I like the horn section here and I’m kind of looking forward to hearing more of that kind on album 7.  It’s one of the songs I’ve heard live quite often, especially in the first two years of my Frank-Turner-Fan-Life. So far I’ve heard him sing it in five different languages: English, German, Luxembourgish, Swedish and French. Highlight was of course the double version of first in French and then in German during the gig in Strasbourg in March 2017.

02. Peggy Sang The Blues ★★★☆☆
It doesn’t matter where you come from,
It matters where you go.

Another staple at the gigs in recent years and I admit I needed to hear and sing it live to really appreciate it. It’s fun to sing along to and to answer at Frank’s “Better times are coming” with screaming “Better times ahead”. A lot of wonderful wise and meaningful lyrics in this song.

03. I Still Believe ★★★★★
And I still believe that everyone
Can find a song for every time they’ve lost, and every time they’ve won.

This song should get a few additional ★★★, because it’s the song that started it all. My love for Frank’s music and the gigs I’ve been to and the miles I’ve travelled and the friends I’ve found… Two days after I’ve by pure chance seen saw TV footage of Frank and the Souls play this one at Southside/Hurricane festival in June 2013, I wrote a long post about it. 

04. Rivers ★★★☆☆
Round here the sky is a little closer,
A little closer to the ground.
It’s hard for someone to get lost here,
Harder still to get found.

This one is probably the most typical song of what Frank wanted this album to be about: England and the feeling of home and national identity. I’m German, so I can’t quite relate to that ;-), but it’s a lovely song and I love the string instrumentation here. According to my nerd-y “Songs I’ve heard live” spreadsheet, I’ve only heard this one once in 25 gigs: at the Lost Evenings this year.

05. I Am Disappeared ★★★★★
And on the worst days,
When it feels like life weighs ten thousand tonnes

I’ve got a weird relation to this song. I can’t really relate to what the lyrics are about or what I think they are about: the feeling of being stuck in a relationship or situation and wanting to run from that. I get the “feeling stuck” part, but… anyway, there are some very beautiful lyrics here and I’m a sucker for those. My favourite version of this song is the live one, in which Frank starts it solo and acoustic and the band only joins for the last bit after “And come morning, I am disappeared, just an imprint on the bedsheets…” because the electric guitar and especially the drums really add to the sense of urgency of the whole “flight”. 

06. English Curse ★★★☆☆
Many years back when the old oaks were young,
Not long after the Northmen had come,
A low and evil deed was done
In the dark of the New Forest.

This does sound like a classic old folk song and that’s really superb songwriting, I think. I’m not a fan of single voice a cappella songs as such, but it works quite all right  here.

07. One Foot Before The Other ★★★★★
But I place one foot before the other, confident because
I know that everything we are right now is everything that was

This song and I have a weird and complicated history. I could appreciate the powerful sound of it from the beginning, although that sound is the limit of loud punk for me to still be enjoyable. When I first listened to the lyrics, for some reason I understood them too literally. I didn’t even intend to, as I knew he couldn’t actually mean to “pollute London’s drinking water with my ashes after my death”. But that image got stuck and it kind of turned me off this song. Sorry! 

Only after I’ve heard Frank talk about these lyrics and the meaning behind at a song writing event in Cologne in 2014 I could put that image to rest and see and understand what he meant: That in the end the atoms that make up our bodies (and life) will continue to exist as atoms in any other form of nature or living being. Very plain scientific circle of life (even if it’s over a long span of time) kind of thought. After I heard him explain that that I had a whole new appreciation of that song and it’s one of my favourites by now. 

Not to mention that I have some great memories of this song during a gig in January 2016, where I stood at the barrier center stage and all of a sudden had to hold on to Frank’s foot while he climbed onto the barrier for part of the song. :-) 

08. If Ever I Stray ★★★★★
We’ve all got secrets that we hold inside,
The worst little things that you never confide,
And the worst one of all that you just can’t hide
Is that you’re never quite as strong as you sound.

One of my favourite songs. I just love these lyrics, because at various times in my life I could and still can relate to these feelings of being lost and overwhelmed and inadequately prepared for life in general. These feelings are always only a phase, thank God, but it’s so nice to have words that express this feeling so perfectly. And of course hearing this song live is always a treat, because it’s so powerful and cathartic to sing along to, especially when you can relate to the lyrics so much. 

09. Wessex Boy ★★★☆☆
And one day I will hear this song, anonymous and sweet,
Ringing out from a busker’s guitar on the ancient city streets.

A lovely song about Winchester and Wessex and the feeling of home. I still reside in the town I grew up in, so I can’t quite relate to the “coming home and it still feels the same” emotion. But it’s a nice song nonetheless. Fun to sing along live too. 

10. Nights Become Days ★★☆☆☆
On days like this I feel like I can escape
From the things that I’ve done and mistakes that I’ve made,
I can wash it all away.

This one is the only song on this album that doesn’t really do anything for me. It’s nice enough musically, but I just can’t relate to the lyrics. I’ve never lived life like that, I haven’t done these things… 

11. Redemption ★★★★☆
Well I tried so hard to not turn into my father,
But if I only ever skip all his choices will I ever choose better?

Another song I can’t relate to personally, but this time I don’t care, because it’s such a well written song.  It’s quite personal and it’s heartbreaking, because he knows he was at fault in this relationship and it’s almost painful to listen to him listing all the ways that he messed up. But that exactly is what makes this song so powerful, I think.  

12. Glory Hallelujah ★★★★☆
Because I’ve known beauty in the stillness of cathedrals in the day,
I’ve sung “Glory Hallelujah! Won’t you wash my sins away?

I wrote quite a lot about that song and how I feel about it, when I wrote about my first Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls gig over four years ago. Short recap: I think it’s masterpiece of songwriting, because it’s a catchy tune, you can’t not clap along and Frank definitely gets his point across here. But as a not even overly religious, but somewhat religious person nonetheless, hearing hundreds or thousands of people scream “there is no God” makes me a bit uncomfortable. So I never sung along to the song at a gig, or at least not to the chorus and I’m not really sad that he has dropped it from the regular set list by now. 

Listening to the album from start to finish for the first time since I started listening to Frank’s music only now made me see how brilliant it is to begin and end with two religious hymn like songs. Nicely done. But there also are a few more songs on the deluxe version. Frank’s discography on his website states “Sailor’s Boots” as one of the songs, but the edition I got from iTunes doesn’t and neither do any of the versions I find on Amazon and such now. I wrote enough about that song elsewhere anyway :-)

13. Song For Eva Mae ★★★★★
You should keep your friends and family close,
And you should always always always try to say “yes”.
That we can none of us ever be perfect,
But Eva darling we can try our best.

Such a lovely lovely song for a godchild. Or any child you care about to be honest. So very personal and sweet and beautiful. I admit I “borrowed” some of those lyrics for the Christening scrapbook for my god daughter two years ago. You can never introduce her to Frank’s art early enough right :-)?

14. Wanderlust ★★★★☆
She has my heart, but it is breaking
Because it knows that deep inside she still believes
That there will ever come a morning when I’m staying
And not gathering to leave.

Such a sad love song. Beautifully written and sung. And still so sad. It’s one of the songs I would love to hear live at some point. Maybe I should request it for a show next year, although I usually try to keep song requests to a minimum and to only choose songs that mean something to me in any way. This one doesn’t really, as I can’t relate to it or so, but it’s still so lovely. 

15. Balthazar Impresario ★★★★☆
Always make them laugh,
Try to make them cry,
Always take the stage like it’s the last night of your life.

This song is another one that Frank talked about and played at the song writing event in Cologne in 2014 and which I appreciated even more once I heard why he chose to write it. I also like that it sums up Frank’s own philosophy about art and entertainment and which role he sees for himself in all of this. 

 

Summed up, this album gets a  ★★★★☆ review from me, which is pretty good. And well deserved…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*