Release Date: Aug 7, 2015
Record label: Interscope
Frank Turner sure has come a long way. The former Million Dead singer stepped away from hardcore a decade ago in favor of his acoustic guitar and singing rather than screaming. Time has seen Turner become more comfortable as a solo artist, and as a result his sound has become more fleshed out to incorporate more of a band dynamic. His sixth studio release, Positive Songs for Negative People, may only have Turnerâ€™s name on it, but this is the most complete band record of his career to date.â€œBy the waters of the Thames,â€ Turner softly begins the acoustic â€œThe Angel Islington,â€ using the geography of his native land to anchor the song both in lyric and title.
As the gig tally on his website reaches 1700 (July 5 2015 @ Gianluca’s House, Naples), the sixth entry in Frank Turner’s Open Diary Of A Hard Fought Folk Punk Success is writ.Turner has amassed entire arenas of devoted followers via the age-old troubadour tenet of making them feel like friends walking the long and righteous road from north London indie dive Nambucca to Wembley right alongside him, the horizon their home. They were with him back in 2007, sharing bug-infested venue mattresses and hungover walks of shame on debut ‘Sleep Is For The Week’ (UK Number 200). They smelt the sweat of his first thousand shows on the punk journeyman anthems of 2009’s ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ (Number 36).
Positive Songs for Negative People is the name of Frank Turner’s sixth studio album, but it’s also a neat encapsulation of what the English singer-songwriter has been getting at since he left post-hardcore band Million Dead back in 2005. In the decade since, Turner has crisscrossed the globe a dozen or so times and transformed from another aging punk with an acoustic guitar to a galvanizing voice in the wilderness for his thousands of fans, many of them aging punks themselves. His shows have moved from corner pubs to concert halls, his singles have moved from the blogosphere to the British charts, and his lyrics have moved from the page to many a tattooed bicep.
In the decade after the breakup of his retro punk outfit Million Dead, singer/songwriter Frank Turner has transformed himself from the solo folk-punk singer who played dank London basements to headlining Wembley, writing a best-selling autobiography, and becoming the subject of ideological political intrigue in The Guardian. Like 2013's Tape Deck Heart, Positive Songs for Negative People looks back and in, but only as a way of integrating a bruised and broken self. Backing band the Sleeping Souls and producer Butch Walker are the twin engines that fuel his transformation.
Review Summary: Sing along, remember to be happy.He’s been a busy man has our Frank. The trusty folk rock troubadour who began life fronting hardcore band Million Dead turned full circle by adding Mongol Horde to his increasingly long list of successes. Between them, his solo work, and opening the London Olympics back in 2012 with quintessentially British shouts of “Come Ye” on ‘I Still Believe,’ he’s barely stopped to catch his breath since 2003.
Frank Turner emotes the way Reggie Jackson swings: with full force, and zero fear of striking out. A decade ago, the British songwriter fled post-hardcore outfit Million Dead, reinventing himself as a folk-punk troubadour—and he’s carved out a unique niche, balancing Mumford & Sons’ stadium-sized Americana churn with the abrasive uplift of Billy Bragg. Whether he’s yelping about social issues (2007’s Sleep Is For the Week) or romantic fall-out (2013’s Tape Deck Heart), Turner attempts to condense the entire human experience into three chords and an everyman melody—gumption both dorky and divine.
Say what you like about Frank Turner’s political leanings – and many people have since an appearance at the Olympics opening ceremony catapulted him to the big league and wider scrutiny in 2012 – it’s hard to deny the passion in his music. When his band Million Dead split in 2005, he retained their punk intensity but started writing songs that were more informed by English folk music. It’s this intensity, allied with an impressive work ethic, that has made him such an arena-filling live draw.
Frank Turner cuts a curious and divisive figure in modern British rock. To his fans, the singer-songwriter is a beacon of earnest integrity and punk authenticity. They hold his rise to arena-filling status – from a punk scene so underground that his early gigs frequently took place not in clubs or pubs but fans’ homes – as a bulwark against the vagaries and machinations of the music industry: in a world of hype and manufacture, Turner has become hugely successful through the old-fashioned expedients of talent and simple hard graft.
"At this truth we have arrived/God damn, it's great to be alive," U.K. folk rocker Frank Turner sings, catapulting lyrics that many singers would be embarrassed to read aloud, let alone sing, into a towering anthem. A former frontman in a hardcore band, Turner specializes in earnest revelation, recalling fellow punks-turned-strummers like Billy Bragg and Dashboard Confessional.
Frank Turner’s come a fair way since the demise of Million Dead a decade ago, going from punk rock troubadour to one of the UK’s most successful singer-songwriters via the Olympics opening ceremony and countless live shows around the world. Now he’s back with sixth studio album ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ and trying to keep the momentum going on what has become a hugely successful solo career. Turner’s output has been characterised by raucous, bombastic railings against the struggles of life in modern Britain, and bleak, desperate, intimate attempts to overcome these same struggles.
It would be easy for this review to consist of little more than a snide character assassination, for it to criticise Frank Turner less for his music than for his continued earnestness in the face of overwhelming – and rather surprising – success. It would be easy to hark back to September 2012 when Turner was, rather embarrassingly (for both media outlet and Turner), outed by The Guardian as a libertarian. Instead I’d like to begin by emphasising just how much I’ve enjoyed Frank Turner’s music over the years.
Frank Turner’s early albums were filled with blustery folk-punk, his lyrics blunt and certain, perfect for his steadily building fist-pumping crowds that sang along with every word. He grabbed the mantle of Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer with his rousing songs, defiant punk poetry (“I won’t sit down / I won’t shut up / And most of all / I will not grow up”), and the sheer joy he brought to his role as hardcore-singer-turned-troubadour. By 2009’s Poetry Of The Deed, Turner had fully integrated The Sleeping Souls as a backing band, giving the songs a fuller sound without deviating from his path.