During his fantastically compelling solo career, Frank Turner has continually morphed his style and raised expectations from fans and critics alike. It’s reached the point that it’s virtually impossible for him to satisfy those drinking in his music. And, although it’s a shitty, unfair thing to do, I hold Turner to a higher standard than I do most other musicians.
On Positive Songs For Negative People, we hear Turner imploring his listeners to take a more positive outlook on life, something he admittedly needs to practice a bit more of himself, although in his Facebook post about the new album, he offered a hopeful invitation to his fans: “It is with great pleasure and humble hope that I offer you ‘Positive Songs For Negative People.’I threw everything I’ve got into this one, and with the help of The Sleeping Souls and Butch Walker, I think it might be a good one. I hope you agree. Enjoy.”
Rest assured Frank, it’s a good one… a damn good one, but I’m not sure it’s any better than his previous album Tapedeck Heart, but there are precious few albums this decade that are that good. All of that being said, the album is still much better than the great majority of the releases that surround it this year, and it is likely destined for numerous 2015 Albums Of The Year lists.
The former punk frontman for Million Dead has already mastered the transition to rock ‘n roll story teller. He sounds just as comfortable and easy on the ears when he’s rollicking with his mates from The Sleeping Souls as he is playing starkly alone with his acoustic guitar. To me, a New Jersey boy turned Floridian, Turner turned into the musician that Bruce Springsteen should have. That’s high praise, but it’s well-deserved. His musical composition is masterful but what really sets Turner apart from his peers is his penchant for writing the perfect lyric; words that resonate with his listeners.
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On Positive Songs For Negative People, Turner weaves a nice thread through the entire album. The album is bracketed with acoustic cuts, which envelope ten other tracks of full throttle rock ‘n roll. As he strolls along the Thames in the opener, “The Angel Islington,” Turner convinces himself: “To wash my feet and cleanse my sins, To lose my cobwebs on the wind, To fix the parts of me I broke… I resolve to start again.”
“Get Better” immediately throws all of the cards on the table “We could get better, because we’re not dead yet.” Hopeful? Yes indeed, Pollyanna-ish? Maybe just a bit, but the song is destined to be an arena anthem and a raucous rocker that’s a blast to listen to loudly.
The mandolin driven “The Opening Act of Spring” is a biographical gem that seems to hearken back to the previous song “The Next Storm,” one of a few times listening to the album, where I wondered of the stories and characters were intertwined.
“Glorious You” is a spirited burner that would make a perfect song for the aforementioned Springsteen. The album is packed with catchy hooks and slick guitar riffs. “Mittens” is a prime example, and a love song that offers some of the most creative lyrics on the album. “Cause I once wrote you love songs. You never fell in love. We used to fit like mittens, but never like gloves…”
I had a pleasant flashback to Turner’s buddies from Larry And His Flask on the breakneck, frenetic journey that is “Out Of Breath” – just another example of the band’s talent and versatility.
There were a few songs that didn’t do much for me, “Demons” had a catchy chorus that will translate well live (“God damn it’s great to be alive) but was mediocre. “Forty Love” featured corny lyrics wrapped in an average song, but those were really the only soft spots I found on the album.
I was absolutely captivated by the last two tracks, both of which focused on death. “Silent Key” was an unexpected look into the last few minutes of Christa McAuliffe’s life, The teacher turned astronaut was one of the victims of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. It’s an interesting song made even more captivating with Esmé Patterson doling out emotive vocals.
The album wraps up with a tender ode to Josh Burdette, Turner’s longtime friend and manager of Washington DC’s 9:30 club who committed suicide in late 2013. In a thoughtful touch, the album version was recorded live at the 9:30 Club. The lyrics are poignant, introspective, and from the heart: “So at half past nine each evening, I’ll think of my friend; And at half past nine, I’ll remember you were better than your end…” A beautiful ending to an excellent album.
Grab the album now, and see for yourself why Frank Turner is the future of rock ‘n roll.