A positive message fuelled by angered political spite. Turner continues to bend traditional expectations with his folk-punk-pop hits on Be More Kind.
Since 2005, Frank Turner has been a mainstay on the lips of fans of good old-fashioned rock music. Following the split of the still cherished Million Dead, he may well have covered every blade of grass on this fair Earth whilst plying his craft as a solo artist (with the accompaniment of The Sleeping Souls as his touring band) – just one of the reasons to suggest that, if you haven’t heard of him, you’ve been living under a rock. Another reason would be that, as of Friday, he will have seven studio albums under his belt, each of which has received more chart success as time moves on. Although I’m sure that Turner himself would hastily reject the word ‘chart’ even being uttered in a discussion about his music, it must be said that his grind seems to be paying off.
Be More Kind is Turner’s latest venture and, while offering up the practices of punchy folk-rock that we have by now grown to expect, it must be said that there is a bit of a new flavour on this latest release. If you’ve heard the rest of Turner’s discography, then you would be more than aware that telling stories through music is his meat and potatoes. In this sense, there has always been a message embedded within his craft. In recent years, this message has largely been concerned with (unrequited) love, personal wellbeing and, speaking incredibly broadly about most topics that music is designed to discuss. Whilst these themes certainly flow through his latest venture (the album’s title should be a clue to this), Turner’s focus has shifted heavily towards venting his frustrations on the current political climate of the West.
Don’t Worry eases us into the record, almost warning us about how heavy the shit is about to get. It’s a warm song that goes down nicely and sets the overall arching message of the album. However, straight after this, 1933, is the heaviest track on the album – both sonically and metaphorically. Essentially, Turner is likening our oh so beloved Brexit to Hitler’s rise to prominence throughout Germany in the early 1930s. The basis for this is the apparent disregard and lack of compassion for immigrants in our country. This song is nothing if not provocative. If, in Britain, we are so concerned with bettering our nation that we are happy to show such heartlessness towards fellow humans that quite often seek refuge and solitude here, then really, how far away are we from the political climate that prefaced the outbreak of WWII?
Of course, Make America Great Again promotes a similar message – a rejection of Trump’s reign in the USA. It’s a pop song, but at least it’s an important pop song. Little Changes wouldn’t sound too out of place on a YouTube makeup tutorial, it’s an uncharacteristically bright song, and if it wasn’t for Turner’s coarse, rough-around-the-edges vocals, you simply wouldn’t be able to assign it to him. Another song that is considerably pop-ier than the rest is, fascinatingly, my favourite. Blackout is utterly infectious – the verses will make your hips jig and the chorus will leave you no choice but to sing along. This one will sound great in the bigger venues – the calibre of which Turner must now be accustomed to.
The upbeat and itchy sound of 1933 is nearly matched by Brave Face and, while alluding to the impending “end of the world” and the fact that “the world is a mess now”, Turner addresses the importance of love in the face of this adversity. This is a whole-hearted tune that is made more so by the delightful employment of accompanying vocals from a gospel choir in the outro. Similarly, Common Ground promotes how crucial unity is, however, it is presented in a calmer and, arguably flatter, fashion. What is interesting about this song is the sweeping percussion that is delivered at a pace that sounds much more hurried that Turner’s composed vocals – it’s a cool dynamic and one that would be interesting to see Turner exercise further in the future.
Following on from the poised Common Ground, this record certainly has its fair share of downtime. The Lifeboat sounds richly lavish thanks to the employment of strings that offer a level of sophistication that counteracts the punk roots that Turner boasts. The album’s closer is also a quieter number that waves goodbye, Get It Right ends the album on a plea. Whilst these two are arguably less engaging than certain predecessors on the album, the album’s titular track that features earlier on is a fantastic ballad that reinforces just how affirmed Turner is when it comes to spinning a ballad. A compassionate outreach to his audience, this is the song that appropriately encapsulated the takeaway message from Be More Kind – love and positive human connection will see us through any hardships we may encounter.