Be More Kind ~ Frank Turner, 2018

I’ve always considered myself a person of words. Writing words – either offline / in private or online here for everyone to read – is my way of expressing myself and my way of working through some stuff. Where other people might make music or paint or are creative in any other way: I’m writing down some words. That’s probably also why my posts about the Frank songs I’m especially fond of, mostly focus on the lyrical part. And even if I sometimes feel like I don’t know the right terminology to properly describe the beauty of Frank’s poetry, writing about words is at least well inside my comfort zone. My comfort zone does not extend to writing about music as in discussing melodies and rhythm and how to actually create music with instruments and how to arrange all that. I know how to write words. I don’t know how to make music. And still… I have to start this post about Frank’s latest song “Be More Kind” with writing about the music, because the new sound is such an integral part of why I love this song in this version so incredibly much. So bear with me please. I will get to the beautiful poetry later in this post as well.

Ever since I had heard “Be More Kind” in the solo acoustic version live last summer and listened to the Youtube clip of another gig many many times, I loved the song. Because it sounds lovely (melody etc wise), but even more because of the beautiful words and probably most of all because of the beautiful and powerful message. I was curious how Frank would transform the simple acoustic guitar version into a fully arranged official album version. Full band? Some strings? Focus on the keys? From the start I had hoped for some kind of soft / low key / soothing arrangement. I had hoped for a fitting sonic backdrop to equally frame and highlight but at the same time support these beautiful and kind words and message without overshadowing them by bombastic powerful rock band instrumentation. On the other hand I thought a simple acoustic version like “Angel Islington” wouldn’t do the song justice either, because I always thought that some parts (“You should know you’re not alone…”) need a richer sound than just Frank’s voice and soft guitar picking.

When it became apparent from various statements and Instagram clips that the new album (in parts at least) would go into a new direction with a variety of instruments and especially some electronic / synthesizer elements, I was starting to become hopeful. I didn’t have a clear idea of how I would like “Be More Kind” to sound with a full instrumentation or fully mixed, but I thought some string instruments and especially some electronic music would give it the right vibe. Both can create a calm and soothing mood as well as an energizing mood and almost seamlessly transform from one to the other and back again. I have to admit I probably couldn’t have put all of that into words before I had listened to the official “Be More Kind” version, but to me that’s exactly what’s happening here and that’s why I absolutely love that Frank and his producers decided to go down that road. And I mean: I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it! In my humble opinion this soothing but also energizing mood is exactly what this song needed. To me that’s what the song is all about after all: Be (more) KIND = positive, friendly, soft, soothing. But also BE (more) kind = make the effort, which sometimes needs energy. Ok, maybe I’m reading too much into this now ;-) I have no idea. I just love this sound of the song and I think it’s a pretty damn good piece of not just song-writing, but also of arranging and mixing and whatever else you need to do get to the final version of a song. Like I stated at the beginning: I don’t know anything about making music.

I’ve enjoyed and of course still enjoy the folk-punk sound of most of Frank’s songs, but so far never really felt the need to listen with conscious effort to discern instrumentation or arrangements. I like the sound of a song or I don’t and I usually don’t care much why one way or the other. This morning though I sat down with the printed out lyrics (in lieu of sheet music, which I wouldn’t be able to read anyway *g*) some crayons and my iPod and listened to “Be More Kind” multiple times and tried to note the various instruments, electronic elements and recurring themes which make up the amazing rich sound of this song. It felt a bit like being back in music class in middle school, where we analyzed Smetana’s “The Moldau” over and over again :-). But this “exercise” and actually consciously noticing the various layers of this rich and well rounded sound made me appreciate it all the more.

Here is why in absolute layman terms: I love how it starts out all soft with just the acoustic guitar(s), setting down the rhythm and also the baseline of the melody. The strings added at the first chorus keep it soft and soothing, especially with the piano bit thrown in in the instrumental section after that. I love how it then turns into a fuller sound with the additional electronic beats in the bridge (“You should know…”), because like I stated earlier, I thought the solo acoustic version sounds a bit flat here. There is a special kind of (electronic?) rhythm line here and the following instrumental part has a completely new melody line as well. The last verse returns to the soft acoustic / string instrumentation before it all comes together for the finale. And I mean literally ALL comes together: The acoustic guitars and the strings and ALL of the electronic elements like the rhythm and melody line from the bridge part, before the song softly fades out the way it started. It sounds fucking awesome! In my opinion anyway.

When Frank first mentioned he would go into a new direction with album 7 and when he mentioned various bands / influences for this direction I was a bit wary to be honest. I mean, I can enjoy the rhythmic or electronic elements of music like The Prodigy or Faithless, but in the melody part it often falls a bit short for me. And the melodic elements are one of the many things I like about Frank’s songwriting. In the two new songs which include electronic music (There She Is, Be More Kind) these don’t take away from the melodic elements, far from it. Thus I’m staying rather optimistic (bordering on excited) for the rest of the album.

But now it’s finally time to also write some words about the words. These beautiful, appropriate, poignant words sung to this beautiful, simple melody. I very well remember how much these words moved me the first time I heard them live last summer. Not just because of the simple, but so important message.

In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

Not just because of the once again beautiful (maritime) imagery Frank evokes with his words.

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

Not just because these words felt and still feel like Frank put his life philosophy and in a way his own personality into these lyrics. I know I’ve said it again and again, but I honestly consider Frank Turner one of the kindest human beings I’ve encountered in my life. At least or especially considering his role in the whole artist / fan context.

What makes this song so very special to me though are the following words which from the first time I heard them touched me quite profoundly, just like other words Frank wrote in other lyrics before:

So before you go out searching, don’t decide what you will find
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

In my long “The Many Ways In Which Frank Turner Has Changed My Life” post, which I wrote shortly after having heard this song for the first time I explained why

One of the many things I still don’t like about myself is, that I’m often pre-emptively defensive, because I expect others to “attack” me in any kind of way. I know this stems back to low self-esteem, tons of self-doubt, anxieties and such. All of this often makes me guarded and close-minded and I really don’t like that about myself. I’m trying to change that and I’m trying to be more open and to be more kind in my approach to others, but also more kind towards myself. More forgiving. Less judgemental. It might sound weird to some people, but after just a few days of hearing that song I’ve now got these few words permanently stored in my mind. By now it’s easy to tap into that and “hear” “Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind”, whenever I need to calm down a bit or mentally have to take a step back while interacting with other people.

For that reason alone these few words and the whole song hold a very special place in my heart. And I’m overjoyed and oh so very very grateful that the final version of the song not just lives up to, but even exceeds the expectations and hopes I had for the new sonic direction. Thank you Frank, once again!

Here are more of my thoughts on Frank Turner songs

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