Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart Album Review
Frank Turner has quietly became a huge star in his native England, while illogically wallowing in relative mainstream obscurity in the States. He’s a relentless road warrior famous for delivering fantastic live shows, and is a prolific song-writer with an excellent catalog of songs. I suspect he’s quite happy with his cult following in the States, where he’s never really had a commercial breakthrough, but that is about to change.
Tape Deck Heart, Turner’s Fifth solo album is a rare marriage of stirring song-writing and creative passionate music. Turner is a talented poet, sincere story-teller and tremendous musician, and he’s created a fantastic album, destined to be prominently included in 2013’s year-end Best Albums lists.
The 31 year-old Turner is the former front-man for hardcore punk rockers Million Dead. Since going off on his own, he has shifted to more of an acoustic driven sound as a solo artist. On Tape Deck Heart, we see a perfect melding of the strumming folk troubadour and the fervid punk rocker. The sound is unique and Turner pulls it off perfectly. We hear a roller-coaster of lyrics that effortlessly transforms from hopefulness to resignation to bitterness and despair before sneaking back to optimism: just magnificent.
If you’re not familiar with Frank Turner, and are looking for a comparison, there’s not truly an easy match. At times I thought of the best traits of artists such as The Lemonheads (before Evan Dando imploded), The Replacements, Chuck Ragan and Flogging Molly. An eclectic mix, but damn good company.
“Recovery” is the first single off of the album and already one of the year’s top songs. It’s a catchy, bouncy tune that is pure addiction. The lyrics belie the poppy sound, as they reflect a desperate, if not unrealistic attempt to recover from a failed relationship. Turner’s vocals are wide-ranging and captivating; nicely accompanied by a rollicking piano and guitar driven backdrop. “Losing Days” is another song cut from the same cloth, and an excellent track on it’s own.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the tender “Tell Tale Signs,” The stark song kicks off with a cold “Goddammit Amy,” and then shares a sad tale of love lost. “Like nothing really matters, Like pain doesn’t hurt, You should mean more to me by now, Than just a heartbreak in a short skirt.” The entire song is a lyrical gem and great story; one of many samples of Turner’s story-telling magic.
The best song is the fantastic “Four Simple Words.” It’s a 5 minute roller coaster ride that just oozes creative genius. The song starts as a slow meandering tome accompanied by minimalist piano, then a bit of a hopeful plea (those four words) “I want to dance,” before exploding into a raucous punk rock anthem. The vocals are diverse and captivating, and the lyrics again superb. It’s a brilliant song, and sadly one that will never get a sniff of airplay on our stale American radio outlets, but stand assured, this will quickly become a highlighted staple in his live shows.
“The way I Tend To Be” and “Polaroid” are two more tracks with the potential to be hits that you’ll find bouncing around in your head. At the other end of the scale is the slow, heart-wrenching “Broken Piano,” and the farewell ballad “Anymore.” The album is masterfully produced by Rich Costey (Muse, NIN) who does a nice job highlighting Turner’s distinctive voice and giving the album a great feel and flow.
We hear the refrain too often that rock music is dead. It’s not, there’s still some fantastic stuff from the likes of The Black Keys, The Drowning Men and Foo Fighters; now, it’s safe to add Frank Turner to that list. Go out, buy the album below and help save rock ‘n roll.
I’ll leave you with this quote from “Four Simple Words:” “Somebody told me that music with guitars was going out of fashion and I had to laugh. This shit wasn’t fashionable when I fell in love. If the hipsters move on, why should I give a fuck?”
P.S. Follow Frank on Twitter – he’s a caustic intelligent guy and always entertaining. @frankturner