Release Date: May 4, 2018
Record label: Interscope
After 2011's England Keep My Bones, British singer/songwriter Frank Turner got himself in trouble with punters for allegedly trashing the political left as his platitudes toward libertarianism -- which he later defined as "classic liberalism" -- came to the fore. The backlash, albeit predictable, was cause enough for Turner to abandon politics in his music to focus on personal issues on 2013's Tape Deck Heart and 2015's Positive Songs for Negative People. Given recent historical developments -- the 2016 American presidential election; Brexit; the rise of white supremacy, fascism, and general intolerance (have you checked your Twitter feed lately?) -- he's returned from the sidelines and entered the fray.
In my view, many of the best artists are those who are constantly evolving, changing their sound to fit with their life experiences and following their own direction. It's the ones who churn out five albums which sound exactly the same who often fade into obscurity or struggle to reach the fans who have drifted away. Dramatic sonic changes require greater boldness and the gambling spirit of knowing that not everyone will like what you're doing.
England kept his bones, now Trump wants to watch them burn. For a good five years Frank Turner has largely steered clear of politics in song, having dug into folk history to explore "the English identity" on 2011's 'England Keep My Bones', and subsequently been dubbed a mini-Morrissey for discrediting the left and aligning himself with libertarianism (after numerous death threats, he later clarified his political position as "classic liberal"). Following two Turner albums of personal exorcism - 2013's exquisitely broken 'Tape Deck Heart' and 2015's redemptive 'Positive Songs For Negative People' - the barricade against right-wing opinion that he once mischievously kicked at has broken, and the world has spun a dark enough dance that even the soapbox-averse Turner feels urged to musical arms.
The message at the heart of Frank Turner's seventh solo record Be More Kind is a simple one on the face of it – and is spelled out by its title. It's inspired by a poem by Clive James, called Leçons de Ténèbres, which reads: "I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late." The idea that kindness is the thing that counts most at the very end – surviving a human life – certainly seems more poignant today than ever before.
On his new album Be More Kind, Frank Turner wears his new positive message on his sleeve, projects it to the masses and eagerly awaits you singing the words back to him. Addressing the current divisive political climate, Turner's goal is to bring people together. It only takes one glimpse at the tracklist to see: Be More Kind, "Don't Worry," "Common Ground" and the repurposed usage of "Make America Great Again." On the latter track he sings, "Well I know I'm just an ignorant Englishman, but I'd like to make America great again," addressing his somewhat more distant relationship.