Monday, 6 June 2011

Review: Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones

I first discovered Frank Turner about four years ago and since have seen his status grow and grow. Probably the best solo artist this country has seen in decades, this man has a huge passion for making his music and I couldn't ever picture him struggling to come up the goods creatively. 'England Keep My Bones' is his fourth studio album and sees shades of Frank's usual influences but mostly sees him settle into his own sound with an album of sincere and open-hearted anthems. It certainly isn't a great departure from his previous work, but Frank is sticking to what he knows best and adding to it more detail and more definition. Opener 'Eulogy' is a short intro where we are reminded that although not everyone is guaranteed to be mega-famous, everyone has a voice and everyone has the ability to try. 'Peggy Sang the Blues' sees Turner remembering his Grandmother fondly and cheerfully, with a backdrop of carefree and lighthearted melody, while the brilliant 'I Still Believe' is a rousing, fist-in-the-air celebration of rock and roll, and a testament to the power of music. As usual the lyrics are clever, awesome, and passionate ("everyone can find a song for every time they've lost and every time they've won") and the tunes amazingly catchy.

'Rivers' is a distant relative of  'Worse Things Happen At Sea' (a track from one of Frank's early EP's) with an intricate yet simple acoustic riff that brightens up on its magnificent and nicely understated chorus. It does sound a bit like the Levellers and is slightly reminiscent of Roddy Woomble's recent album, but ultimately 'Rivers' is Frank Turner all over, and like much of this album has a strong English identity running through it: "And when II die I hope to be buried out in English seas, so all that then remains of me will lap against these shores till England is no more". ''I Am Disappeared' has shades of Springsteen as well as Frank's last album 'Poetry Of The Deed', building steadily and almost hypnotically, taking a few listens to appreciate what a clever song it is. 'English Curse' is a completely acapella medieval folk song documenting the death of William II, while 'One Foot Before The Other' provides us with the heaviest track we've seen yet from Frank, which brings his unescapable punk influences to the forefront. 'If Ever I Stray' is more classic Turner: uplifting, honest, cheerfully upbeat and with an excellent singalong chorus, while 'Wessex Boy' is a bit like 'To Take You Home' (from 'Love Ire & Song') but with big, slowly stomping percussion and a glorious melody that showcases the intelligence of Frank's songwriting.

'Nights Become Days' is more quiet in its approach, a stripped down acoustic number that recalls Nick Drake and sparkles with a sad beauty. It soon grows with its magnificent strings and even a splash of harp before  the album continues with 'Redemption', quite possibly the bleakest and most weary sounding track on the album as well as being the one that needs the most plays to become memorable. However the closing track certainly doesn't take many plays to stick in your mind.... 'Glory Hallelujah' is a witty and daring atheist gospel song which comes complete with another rousing folk-punk melody to bring the album to an excellent close.

Even though a lot of my favorite Frank Turner tracks can be found on the second album 'Love Ire & Song', when it comes to consistency and overall quality, 'England Keep My Bones' is his most complete and accomplished work to date. A clever, honest and thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs from one of the greatest songwriters of our time. 8.5/10

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