Frank Turner ‘Tape Deck Heart’ Review

Since the release of his first studio album ‘Sleep is For the Week’ in 2007, 31-year-old Folk/Punk singer songwriter Frank Turner has expanded his fan base by touring and performing as much as possible. Once the frontman and vocalist of Post-Hardcore Million Dead, Turner’s non-stop schedule has really paid off commercially given the success of his last album ‘England Keep My Bones’ (2011), which peaked at number 12 in the UK, along with the stacks of award nominations, including 4 NME awards in 2011 and 2012.

It’s safe to say his politically-driven, classically liberal tracks have clearly hit a spot with many UK music fans. Turner announced his fifth studio album on Twitter, ‘Tape Deck Heart’ following the end of a long-term relationship. The album was recorded in California and gets its title is intended to reflect anyone who has an innate love of music.

It’s clear from right from the start that ‘Tape Deck Heart’ illustrates all the best attributes of Frank Turner’s flair. His notable lyrics and gritty vocals form the huge, warm sound of ‘Recovery’, which premiered on BBC Radio 1 on 4th March 2013 and was released on iTunes the next day.

The hasty, seemingly effortless charm of this classic ‘I’m so over you (but actually feeling hopeless)’ track shoots a sense of optimism straight through you from start to end, despite its negative subject matter, “Somebody I don’t really know just gave me something to help settle me down and to stop me from always thinking about you.” His lyrics are wordy, intensely descriptive and honest as ever and blended with the blast of a full band and perky piano, ‘Recovery’ is seamless in both content and production.

The songsman makes use of bold and bright tones in ‘Losing Days’, which shares some similarities with The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m in Love’ along with the physical and emotional hardships of  heartbreak. It also demonstrates the record’s underlying theme of tattoos thanks to tattoo artist Heather Ann Law’s striking artwork along with physical scars and internal heartache or regret we all carry around with us.

‘Tape Deck Heart’ has the potential to strike a chord with just about anyone with its reoccurring references to those cuts and bruises, whether physical or not, that just won’t fade. Lyrically, Frank Turner does what all songwriters aim for- he tells a story, “I used to think that I would never live past twenty-five, and when you think like that each day is a gift if you survive.” This track is both versatile and commercial and refreshingly makes use of the mandolin, which hasn’t been done so beautifully since Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’.

Although the album’s polished in terms of production thanks to Rich Costey (Interpol, Weezer and Muse), ‘The Way I Tend to be’ proves Frank Turner hasn’t lost his edge. This track is rich and flawlessly driven by a mandolin riff. It’s radio-friendly and fundamentally full of self-remorse along with just a hint of hope. The sing-song rhythm of robust ‘Plain Sailing Weather’ is made up of benevolent swagger and sorrow, ‘It was a wonderful life when we were together and now I’ve fucked up every little God-damn thing.” It reflects the album’s personal and intimate theme of inward thoughts, desires and regrets and Turner’s huge desire for happiness and self-reliance.

‘Good & Gone’ is proof that Frank Turner’s political and social principles have yet to ebb from his music, “Sometimes the things you need are right back where you started from. So fuck you Hollywood.” He may have a major label behind him, but the Englishman remains as poetic and reliant on crowd-pleasing spoken wordplay as ever. ‘Tell Tale Signs’ reflects his rich, raw talent and incredible individuality as an artist.

Artists’ connections with their fans are what keeps them selling records, but let’s face it, it’s unusual to hear an artist question where and how you might listen to their work, “Maybe you’re sitting on the back of the bus…”.  ‘Four Simple Words’ (which are “I want to dance”, just in case you were wondering) sparks a bond with the listener with speed variations, humour and gang vocals, and truly indicates Frank Turner’s diverse song-writing skills. This song was released on Christmas day last year as a free download.

The arrangement of ‘Polaroid Picture’ is impeccable and driven by the universal premise that the world is all-too-often, all-too-rapidly shifting, “Make sure you take a Polaroid picture and keep it with you forever to remind you that everything changes.” Frank Turner is a perfect example of an observant songwriter. His bitter social commentary in ‘The King Fisher Blues’ is coherent and sincere. It, along with ‘Anymore’ express Frank Turner’s softer side, which is a simplistic one band and his guitar vibe and vivid lyrics that’re so teeming with pain that it’s almost difficult to listen to.

As a testament to one of his best friends, ‘Oh Brother’ reflects how down to Earth Frank Turner is despite his success and mournful ‘Broken Piano’ is no different. This track demonstrates the singer’s diverse vocal range and experimental nature when it comes to song arrangement and his adoration for England. Although the mesmerising sound effects could be deemed a distraction to begin with, they merge seamlessly into the delicate piano section and war drumming-esque conclusion. The joyful verve of ‘We Shall Not Overcome’ is so forceful it demands you listen to it smiling. Ironically, it’s almost as bright as an Evangelical Christian song. Could Turner be taking tips from his piss-take of organised religion in ‘Glory Hallelujah’ (2011)?

We all know the story. It’s said Gene Simmons has slept with 4,600 women and this track ‘Where for Art Thou Gene Simmons?’ comments on the implication that musicians tend not to see the need to be faithful or committed when it comes to romance. But Frank Turner clings to his rare trait- sincerity, “Not that I can point the finger I’ve been a sinner just the same. ” It’s also clear that the songwriter also clings to the simple things in life, one being his tattoos. ‘Tattoos’ is a love song for inked bodies and the memories and controversy they spark.

‘Undeveloped Film’ tells the narrative of discovering an old box of photographs and exploring the memories and people they can help you recall. This song is incredibly intimate because of the minute details Frank Turner has opted to reveal. Despite the fact that pop culture isn’t something he tends to appreciate, Turner’s reference to “Donnie Darko daydreams” in ‘Time Machine’ reflects upon his personal history as well as history in itself side by side. It’s an unusual blend and intelligent form of songwriting. ‘Cowboy Chords’ almost acts as a gift to the songwriter’s fans; an attempt to explain who Frank Turner really is. By separating the vocals and guitar, each instrument basks in the spotlight and is showcased clearly to the listener.

Peel back the woeful exterior of ‘Tape Deck Heart’ and you’ll discover of nostalgia-riddled, confessional storyteller with a refreshingly raw talent. This album is painful, graphic and relatable and with the likes of Mumford & Sons storming the charts both here and in the states, aguish has never been more mainstream.


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