Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Review Summary: Swap your confirmation for your dancing shoesIn a way Frank Turner really did a number on his future self with his 2008 release Love, Ire and Song. For those of us that grew attached to it, Love, Ire, and Song became a generational album. It was the perfect combination of the self-loathing doubt, transitional angst, and drunken glory that embodies growing up.
It would be easy to take Frank's fourth album for granted, but it'd also be criminally negligent... Such has been the impressive, incremental quality of his recorded output, it’d be easy to take ‘England Keep My Bones’, Frank Turner’s fourth album, for granted. It would also be criminally negligent. It’s not enough to say that this will be one of the year’s standout records, nor that it is Turner’s best album yet.
Things Frank Turner doesn’t believe in: undue subtlety, overly fussy arrangements, the existence of God. Things Frank Turner does believe in: you, me and the power of rock ‘n’ roll to save our souls. And also, power chords. The UK songwriter got his start fronting Doc Martin-scuffing punk bands before embarking on a solo career combining bare-chord strumming and folk storytelling with the galloping velocity of SoCal skate punks like Bad Religion.
One might have thought PJ Harvey's Let England Shake had cornered the market in Wessex-based songwriters from noisy backgrounds exploring Englishness through folk-related forms, but no. Frank Turner's fourth album, though, comes at England from a different tack, seeing it as a country to celebrate, rather than mourn: Rivers dwells on our island identity, English Curse tells an a capella story of the Norman conquest to illustrate the nation's capacity for resistance. Turner's greatest strength could also be the single thing that some listeners will find hardest to overcome: his absolute sincerity.
Anyone who plugged into last year's Rock & Roll EP or the advance singles "Peggy Sang the Blues" and "I Am Disappeared" will understand that Frank Turner has become a songwriter of uncommon depth and variety. England Keep My Bones is a quintessentially British album, its title taken from Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John, but that shouldn't put Americanskis off. Turner's record is a giant step from Poetry of the Deed; it contains far better production, expert sequencing and balance, and the best batch of songs he's written to date.
With recent scenes on TV of preparations for the final NASA shuttle mission, it’s with great timing that [a]Frank Turner[/a] is singing the lyrical home truth that we all had to deal with as a kid: “[i]Not everyone can grow up to be an astronaut[/i]”. He offers this advice on album opener [b]‘Eulogy’[/b], which is classic Turner; sincere and attention-grabbing, with the comfort of open-hearted honesty. On this, his fourth studio album, Frank makes a gentlemanly flutter from patriotic medieval a cappella to romantic intricate folk and onto heavier, throbbing gang-vocals.
In the preface to his novel Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy described Wessex—the setting for much of his writing—as “a merely realistic dream country.” Although not as snappy as England Keep My Bones, Hardy’s phrase might well have made for a good alternative title for Frank Turner’s fourth album. For just as Hardy’s Wessex was his reimagined version of a historical kingdom, Frank Turner’s England is a mythologised version of the place we really live in. Turner, who regards himself as a “Wessex Boy”, guides us with his songs through an England where hamlets, villages, and even Exeter are on a par with London, and where any one of us can become a hero.
Albion’s own hardcore troubadour goes from strength to strength. Ian Winwood 2011 In 1989 Elvis Costello released the song God’s Comic, a tale of a drunken and comical priest who is granted an audience with God. "He said before it had really begun," goes the lyric, "I prefer the one about my son," a line so exquisitely blasphemous that it’s a wonder that no one seemed to notice it.