Be More Kind ~ Frank Turner, 2018 (Album Review)

Album #7 is here. Finally! And I really, really like it. Is it different than the music Frank & the Sleeping Souls made before? Yes. Is it more mainstream than the albums before? Probably. If I had to sort it into a music genre, is it more pop than punk? Definitely. Do I mind? No, not at all!

Frank’s lyrics and his ability to find the right and beautiful words for emotions and thoughts and experiences I know so very well from my own past or current stage in life, were and still are the main reason I’m fangirling over him and his work to the extent that I do. On this album he’s moved on from singing about things I can very well relate to on a personal level (heartbreak, self-doubt, anxieties and so forth). Nonetheless I can and do still admire his talent and his craft to write beautiful and meaningful lyrics. It shouldn’t come as surprise when I say, that I care about Frank not just as the artist, but also as the human being ‘behind’ the artist. Thus I’m happy for him that he finally found the love of his life and it’s lovely to see this love shine through in so many of these songs. I can’t help it, I’m a romantic at heart.

But enough of all this sappy stuff now, here’s my rundown…

01. Don’t Worry ★★★☆☆
Put those thoughts behind you, tomorrow’s a new day
Don’t give up if you just can’t get your way

As opener for an album that clearly departs musically and topically from previous albums it works very well. It’s a bit too simplistic for my taste, musically and yes, even lyric-wise. I like the clapping throughout and the backing vocals at the end, which all in all give this one a very nice gospel atmosphere.

02. 1933 ★★★★★
If I was of the greatest generation, I’d be pissed
Surveying the world slipping back into this
I’d be screaming at my grandkids, “We already did this!”

I very much liked this one from the first time I heard in the solo acoustic version during Lost Evenings 2017. This full band album version sounds the most like the ‘old’ songs as it’s fast and loud and angry. Rightfully so, because there is a lot to be angry about in the state of global politics. I love the very distinct bass line at the start and how then the hammering drums and electric guitar join in. I also love the slight tonal change in the second verse. I don’t know if they were going for a 1930s jazz / swing sound, but it feels a tiny bit like it. Whatever they were going for, I like it. I have to admit, it took me almost a year to find out that the “tragedy – farce” line isn’t from Frank originally, but “borrowed” from Karl Marx. Oooops ;-)

03. Little Changes ★★★★★
‘Cause I’ve been messing things up
And I’ve been letting you down
I’ve been getting you wrong for far too long
I’ve been lost more than found

Such an amazing song! From the first time I heard it last week on BBC Radio 2, I was in awe of how Frank once again managed to combine meaningful, relatable – sometimes a bit dark – lyrics with a upbeat tune to create something quite uplifting! This song has got a nice happy summer vibe to it, in the sense that you dance and hum along instantly, but when you listen to the lyrics more closely they might catch you by surprise for their introspective quality. It’s exactly this combination that I love about this song. I can’t write about this song without talking about the video. Because OMFG… so incredibly funny. Well done, Frank! I’m still grinning!

04. Be More Kind ★★★★★
But when you’re out there floundering, like a lighthouse I will shine
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

Two months ago I already wrote over 1.600 words about that song alone. It’s one of my all-time favourite songs Frank has ever written. Period!

05. Make America Great Again ★★☆☆☆
Because it seems to me the truth is self-evident
You fought our king to be independent
Make America great again
By making racists ashamed again

This is the first of the new songs I’m still a bit on the fence about, even now when it has been out for some time. I mostly enjoyed the solo acoustic version I had heard Frank play at gigs. Although already back then I thought the song fell a bit flat melody wise. The full band + electronic and other sounds production on the album doesn’t help with that, I’m afraid. It sounds “over-produced” to me and that makes Frank’s voice sound a bit monotonously here.

06. Going Nowhere ★★★☆☆
When you’re a hedgehog who can’t help
Pricking all the people that you meet
When the ravens leave the tower
And you’re cowering of fear in the city

I like this one in general. The music has a nice country / blue-sy feel to it. I really don’t mind that for a change, even though it’s not usually a genre I listen to. I like the sentiment of the song and most of the lyrics. For some reason though I still – at the moment – have a bit of a difficult time to get used to the phrase “in there like swimwear”. It might be a non-native English speaker problem. Because even though it’s clearly meant as a metaphor this phrase conjures up images of the quite literal meaning in my mind and that’s not easy to shake off ;-).

07. Brave Face ★★★★★
So put on your brave face, honey, your brace face, it’s funny
How fear can bring your focus in tight
Don’t be ashamed, we all shoulder some blame for the way
Nothing really turned out right

After “Don’t Worry” that’s the first really new song to me. And what a great one it is. I just love it. The apocalyptic scenario is a bit of departure from the mood of the preceding songs, but it still fits very well into the overall theme of the album. I like, that it’s more fast-paced than other songs in this collection and the gospel choir sound fits very well here. Lyric-wise I’m once again in awe how the words just flow along so wonderfully rhythmical. Maybe I should update my “Rhythm, Rhyme & More…” post with examples from this one. Sap that I am, I obviously also love how much his feelings for his girlfriend shine through here.

08. There She Is ★★★★★
And I stumbled, Lord knows how I stumbled,
I slipped on myself, no help from anyone else
I fell in love and I was humbled

I love this song. So so much. Probably more than I would love an equally honest love song written by anyone else. There are quite a few not-so-happy love songs in Frank’s repertoire, because many of his relationships never really worked out for a variety of reasons. But this relationship now is going strong and I gladly listen to him shouting it from the roof top with this song. The lyrics are rather simple, but still so heartfelt and thus never feel generic and… sorry, I really can’t be objective about this song, because it feels so personal. I love the simple electronic vibe in the second half, because it give the song a much fuller sound. And the horn section in the end… unabashedly pulling on every heart string. I love it.

09. 21st Century Survival Blues ★★★★★
And I’m scared that I won’t have the strength that it takes
To stand up when the levee breaks
So meet me at home, when the sirens go off
I don’t want to be alone, so don’t you get lost

And here is the fourth in a row of love songs to his girl. [I spare you the sappy shit now]. I had heard the song for the first time over a year ago in Strasbourg and was already in awe back then over how Frank managed to combine dread and hope in a song about the apocalypse. Once again I like the urgency that comes across in the way these lyrics flow. And it gets even more powerful with the whole band arrangement. I love it.

10. Blackout ★★★☆☆
We can’t just turn around and close the door on the world
Let’s ask uneasy questions
We should be asking ourselves uneasy questions

It seems the farthest away music-wise from everything he did before. The song wasn’t an instant love, but it grew on me over the weeks. It definitively has a nice danceable groove to it. I love the “3x hand clap” in the second verse and the “meet me in the middle” part with all the full electronic crescendo backing it up.

11. Common Ground ★★☆☆☆
If all we are is dust to dust, then in the end what’s left of us
Are the traces of the way we treat the ones we meet
And the ones who trouble us; the greatest test of us

There seems to be (at least) one song on every Frank album, I just can’t quite connect to. Here it’s this one. To me the musical style feels so far off from what Frank has done before and in this case, the direction isn’t one for me. I can’t really explain it any better. Maybe I need to give it a few more tries. I don’t dislike the song as such; there are some lovely lyrics in it. But it just… doesn’t click.

12. The Lifeboat ★★★★☆
There are battles now worth being fought
There are lessons to be learned and later to be taught

A few days ago I read Frank stating that he was aiming to write a ‘Will Varley song’ with this one. I love Will and I have to say: Mission accomplished. Not many people can include phrases like “lest ye be drowned” in a song without sounding pretentious, but Will and Frank can always pull it off. Frank has written similar folk songs before, but this one still has a different feel to me. I love how the sound evolves from simple guitar picking to the full crescendo of violin and cello and trumpet. Perfect!

13. Get It Right ★★★★☆
Last night I had a vision
Of people being congratulated
Instead of ridiculed and hated
For admitting that they’ve made mistakes

Another song I have heard (and ‘ba-da-ba-da-ed’ along to) at a solo acoustic set before. I very much enjoyed it back then and I love that they have kept the arrangement as simple as a solo version. Just some acoustic guitar, some light percussion, some backing vocals. It’s a lovely and and apt closing song for this album.

So all in all: A wonderful new album. On the one hand definitely different. On the other hand: Pure Frank Turner. Thank you Frank for sharing it with us.

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