The journey continues

So Frank Turner’s second solo album has arrived. For a couple of weeks now you’ve had the chance to read his verdict on this album in the R13 features section, so what of ours?

The one immediate difference between this and ‘Sleep Is For The Week’ is that Turner’s debut contained plenty of familiar songs that had developed in front of his growing fan base in tiny venues up and down the UK. This one, aside from a couple of songs which have appeared in previous setlists, the single ‘Photosynthesis’ and the album’s opener which has been available to hear on his Myspace, is an unknown quantity.

Frank Turner has spoken in the past about how the aim with this record what not to lurch off in some new and ground breaking direction, but simply to up the game and rite some better songs. To an extent he’s done his creative streak a disservice by saying that, as we get his heaviest song since Million Dead, ‘Imperfect Tense’, a healthy dose of country and folk (which was expected), and the first appearance of a piano. Fear not though, this album also has much that we’ve come to know and love, not least the stereotypical Frank Turner song ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’, unquestionably a highlight, and one for fans of ‘Vital Signs’ to enjoy.

The record continues with the excellent rocky offering ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, which will fit well into alternative rock focused radio playlists should it be released as a single, just as next track ‘Photosynthesis’ can already do.

We then get a couple of slower tracks, another typically personal Turner tale in the form of ‘Substitute’’ where he talks about writing songs for girls...again, and the successes or failures of that, clearly not learning the lesson from ‘Romantic Fatigue’, and ‘Better Half’, where the piano makes it’s debut.

Lyrically this album is as interesting as you’d expect. We get a mixture of Frank Turner’s take on love, life and a spot of politics, Mr. Angry appears with ‘Love, Ire And Song’. In terms of sound, we get nods in the direction of The Lemonheads, ‘To Take You Home’ at times has a Levellers feel, and to throw a random one at you, the intro to ‘Substitute’ is reminiscent of ‘Tribute’ by Tenacious D.

Frank Turner has certainly achieved the goal of writing some better songs, although that’s not to look down on his debut which still sounds great now. At the risk of a cop out, it’s tricky to judge definitively if this album is over all a better one. One plus point is that it takes a bit more work to fully get into, a challenging listen is no bad thing, and so that judgment might be easier to make in six months time. The extra effort required could also be due to the relative unfamiliarity mentioned earlier in this review. One track that has already seen the light of day via the live shows is ‘St. Christopher Is Coming Home’, and although it doesn’t close the record, it’s a good way to end this article. For most Frank Turner fans, his great strength above all others is the live performance, helped by his ability to write songs that are perfectly suited to generating a feel good atmosphere in the audience. ‘Sleep…’ closed with such a song, and this uplifting, acoustic-based country-style offering has the potential to be this album’s ‘Ballad of Me and My Friends’: ironically he’s on about his mates again. Everyone who passed through the studio were asked to sing the closing section, giving a chorus of around fifty people…the lung busting sing-along at gigs is inevitable!

2007 was a massive year for Frank Turner and ‘Love, Ire and Song’ has arrived in time to help build on this success. It’s not uncommon for bands to bring out a second record in next to no time, and the music press don’t talk about the difficult second album for nothing. Frank Turner has unquestionably passed that test, and with another summer of festival appearances, more support slots in the Biffy Clyro league and some proper radio support (I notice his current single isn’t listed on the X FM playlist even though ‘Sleep…’ was up for the station’s debut album of 2007 award) then we could really see Frank Turner move onwards and upwards: he has the songs to deserve it, even if this reviewer initially found ‘Love, Ire and Song’ to be in the “grower” category.