My Thoughts on Frank Turner’s “Positive Songs for Negative People”

I discovered Frank and his music in June 2013, a few months after he had released his fifth album “Tape Deck Heart” (TDH). I bought all his music on iTunes right away and even though I might have listened to the albums one by one at first, I quickly either just had all his stuff on shuffle or had compiled playlistes of favourites and such. So his new album “Positive Songs For Negative People” (PS4NP) is the first one I really get to know and listen to right after it’s release. That’s a novelty after binging on five “old” albums in one day like I did in June 2013 :-)

Several times I heard or read in interviews that Frank considers “Broken Piano” (the final song on TDH) one of his best songs up to that point and that he’s really proud of that one. And for quite a long time that made me a bit wary about his new album, because I don’t share his love for “Broken Piano”. At all. Sorry, but it just never “klicked”. So I was a bit worried that if his music evolves more into stuff like this song, I might not enjoy his new music as much as I would want to.

But I was wary and worried for nothing and I already knew that last summer, when Frank played a few new songs at various gigs I’ve been to and they were all very awesome. So I knew I would most probably like most of the songs on this new album. And then there was a freaking awesome title, and a great lyrical video of “Get Better” and the goodies came rolling in and I was getting soooooo excited, that I started worrying again, that maybe being TOO excited could mean I’d end up a bit disappointed after all.

But I didn’t. Because the new album is just incredibly awesome!!!! It’s powerful and emotional and inspirational and so full of wonderful melodies and beautiful lyrics. And so full of energy! Whether it’s in the very very fast pace of a song or in all the feelings of another. It’s just a brilliant positive piece of music!

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So here is my very subjective track by track review, with my personal 5 star rating system. Also including some favourite lyrical bits, because I’m a nerd about Frank’s lyrics…

01. Angel Islington ★★★☆☆
“To fix the parts of me I broke
To speak out loud the things I know:
I haven’t been myself”

I’ve heard this song live before and I like it, but it still surprises me as opener for the album. Frank has explained why he chose this song (TDH was a breakup album and this song represents the first step to really get over it. Or something like that ;-) ). I like a lot of his slower songs, but this one is almost too “soft” even for me. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t “grab me” as much as a lot of his other slower songs do.

02. Get Better ★★★★★
“It’s just the numbers tangled up in your sums…”

This is the first new song I’ve heard over a year ago at a gig in Luxembourg. I’ve written about it a few times, at last in March 2015 and that blog post was titled “So Stoked About Frank Turner’s New Single”. Says it all, doesn’t it? [Ok, it’s not really a single, but a song officially released via Youtube video…]

03. Next Storm ★★★★★
“So open the shutters, raise up the mast
Rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed”

I’ve also heard this one live a few times already and loved it from the start. When I heard it in it’s final album version for the first time I needed a moment to get used to the full-band instrumentation of it, which sounds a bit different than the version he played live. I love the lyrics, the music and everything about this song!

04. Opening Act of Spring ★★★★★
“Oh baby I will read
About the buzzing of the bees
About the grass and snakes and spawning lakes and the different types of trees”

I tried to not search for his new songs on Youtube, if I haven’t heard them live at a gig before. But then Frank officially shared this one as accoustic version a few weeks ago  (for a music magazine, I think) so watching it didn’t feel like “cheating”. And what can I say: I LOVED it. It’s more folksy than the previous songs on this album and I like that he’s still doing this kind of music too. Beautiful lyrics. I mean literally beautiful to me. I just love his way with words. Period. And I love the happy feel Matt’s mandolin adds to this song. Perfect!

05. Glorious You ★★★★☆
“So don’t you worry, all things must end.
There are sunlit uplands around the riverbend.”

The first really new song for me and I love the beat and the energy of it. I can’t wait to hear it live and sing along, because it has some great sing along parts. I think Frank said on Twitter that he wrote this song for his cousin who was going through a difficult time “and needed a hug”. Awwww :-)

06. Mitten ★★★★★
“I wondered if you ever heard those songs I used to play
I wrote them as a gift for you and in return
You gave a pair of hand knit mittens to keep my fingers warm
So I could play more ignored love songs”

Another song I’ve heard live a few times and … yes I’m broken record… I loved it from the start. The song is a bit sad, but still not heartbreakingly so and it has some great lyrics. I definitely admire his audacity to put glove and love in a rhyme, especially when this combination is usually used in another context :-). I like the “fit like mittens vs. gloves” analogy about relationships that are just not working out. I also love how the song fades out with the soft plucking of the guitar.

07. Out of Breath ★★★★★
“You can run, you can hide, you can bitch and you can whine
But you will never save your life”

Woah! I was already blown away by this song every time I heard it at a gig this past year, but it feels even more powerful, or as I read somewhere more “in your face!” *g* on the album, especially if you’re listening to it on headphones. Great message, great lyrics and just such an awesome fast paced punk song. It’s my new go-to-song, when I need to let off some energy by jumping and dancing around to some music!

08. Demons ★★☆☆☆
“At this truth we have arrived,
Goddamn it’s great to be alive”

This one is the song I like least on the album so far. I really wish I could like it more, because it has some great lyrics and a great beat, but most of the song just feels a bit too monotonous to me. I don’t know…

09. Josephine ★★★★★
“I’m a defeated commander
I’m a half-deaf composer
I’m a strange name whispered in a dream”

I had no idea what to expect from this song. I read beforehand (in an interview?) sort of what it was about, but I couldn’t really imagine how a woman’s name and references to historical figures could make up a (good) song. But oh my God, was I wrong! I can’t yet quite put my finger on what makes this song so awesome. I like the tempo, I like the melody, I like the words. I just like how all of these come together to this amazing piece of music.

10. Love Forty Down ★★★★☆
“In the time it takes for the serve to rise and fall
We’ll find out if I am man or mouse, if I am set to stand or fall”

Yet another fast paced song, I really like. Especially because of the double meaning of it all. Because he’s not really singing about a tennis match. Or is he? No he is not. I think… :-) But it’s a neat new idea to use tennis lingo to write about love and life…

11. Silent Key ★★★☆☆
“The darkness up above
Led me on like unrequited love
While all the things I need
Were down here in the deep blue sea”

I didn’t really like this song much at first, but it sort of grew on me after a while. Still not a big fan of verses, which are more narrated than sung. But I love the last part when Esme Patterson joins Frank, that’s a really beautiful piece of music. [And I admit I looked a bit into the whole Challenger conspiracy theories. I only vaguely remember the tragedy, even though I was 11 when it happened, but it wasn’t such a big deal over here in Germany I think.]

12. Song for Josh ★★★★★
“So at half past nine each evening, I’ll think of my friend
And at half past nine, I’ll remember you were better than your end”

At my first Frank Turner gig on 6 September 2013 in Bremen, Frank played the slow version of “Ballad of Me and My Friends” and dedicated the song to Josh Burdette, who had taken his own life just a few days before. I don’t remember exactly what Frank said about it on that day. My blog post / review just states “dedicated it to a friend in the music business in the US, who passed away a few days before”, so I don’t know if Frank went into specifics.
But in the past two years Frank talked about Josh some more, especially in regards to this song, which was recorded live at the 9:30 club in Washington DC where Josh worked as head of security. It’s such a moving tribute to an obviously great man with a kind soul and this live recording transports all the feelings in such a heartbreaking way, that I’m always close to tears when I listen to it. Let’s end the stigma and let’s talk more about mental health issues. For real!

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So, that is my take on the 12 songs of #PS4NP. As a whole this album ist definitely a ★★★★☆  or even ★★★★★ album to me! And I can’t wait to sing my heart out to all these new songs and a lot of old ones at my next gig in less than 3 weeks!!

Here are more of my thoughts on Frank Turner songs

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