Album Review: Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

By on Wednesday, 17th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Frank Turner Tape Deck Heart coverI happened upon Frank Turner’s music when I had an opening in my “musical obsessions” dancecard. His fervor, stories, and musical ethos grabbed me at once. It dripped through every note of 2011’s ‘England Keep My Bones’ and I quickly became immersed. I saw him and the Sleeping Souls play nine times in the 12 months that followed. So what about this new album, would it do the same for me?

Next week, Turner releases ‘Tape Deck Heart’, a self-professed ‘break-up album’ and fifth studio offering. It seems uncanny that this particular album would come into my life at the precise moment when I am also navigating a situation where something I thought would be permanent turned out not to be so. I have recently experienced the most bizarre combination of love and loss, of leaving and being left that isn’t often found together. Approaching this record from both sides of the relationship coin simultaneously was quite an emotional upheaval. How do you feel bad about leaving when you were left so long ago? How do you deal with the relationship that went out with the proverbial whimper? How do you get over it and back to the person you are supposed to be? Turner tells us how he’s doing it throughout the tunes on this disc. However, despite what I’ve taken away from it personally, I believe the overarching theme to be change, not loss, as I had expected. This element of change is what holds the album together. Relationships dissolve, one gets older, and people don’t always do what you want them to. But in the end, if you embrace change, you can make it.

Opening tune ‘Recovery’ indicates that while there is a light at the end of the tunnel; it’s not an easy task getting there and sadness is always waiting at the edges: “It’s a long road up to recovery from here / a long way back to the light / A long road up to recovery from here / a long way to making it right”. It starts our descent into the self-introspection of the album. With Turner despairing that he will never realise his full potential or find lasting love, the first half of the album spirals into doubt and darkness. But the man is clever about it, referencing a French film and another of his songs in ‘Plain Sailing Weather’. Next single ‘The Way I Tend to Be’ contains one of the most poignant messages of the album, that love can save you, but only if you are careful with it. Turner disciples will be pleased to learn that the ‘Amy Trilogy’ finally concludes in ‘Telltale Signs’. He’s said that ‘Amy’ is an amalgam of people from whom he’s tried to extricate himself. With this installment, he is finally putting that bit of him to rest. ‘Anymore’ may be the most painfully honest song ever written about the slow demise of an unnurtured relationship: “Not with a bang but with a whimper / It wasn’t hard, it was kind of simple / Three short steps from your bed to your door/ Darling I can’t look you in the eyes now and tell you I’m sure / If I love you anymore”.

The album isn’t bereft of the feel good bounce that permeates Turner’s work though. Musically, it’s got quite a lot that’s bright and cheerful with upbeat music and a prevalent mandolin, so a casual listen will prevent the depression I found in many of the lyrics. Halfway through the album ‘Four Simple Words’, familiar to anyone who’s seen him live in the last year, bursts through the melancholy to spur a frenzied riff through the joys of being at a live gig.

Closing the album is Turner’s most musically experimental song thus far, ‘Broken Piano’. Identified in an interview as the song he’s most proud of, it pulls the drone from the end of ‘Oh Brother’, as Turner starts his vocal line above this hum. Carefully twining his voice with the titular piano, it drifts into a decidedly traditional English folk song feel that then has the drums cascade over the whole thing. It’s this insistent thudding that carries the last half a minute as the album closes with a sense of accomplishment if not necessarily joy.

Is anything missing from ‘Tape Deck Heart’? Heartbreak? Check. Buddy song? Yup. Lament to self-destruction? OK. Rousing punk ode? Got it. Wait – where’s the history song? ‘History is important’ Mr. Turner, remember? There is no English history lesson and I miss that. Next time, OK? This album drips with melancholy and there will surely be peripheral fans who won’t enjoy it. I do wonder what kind of new fans this album will draw. If ‘Tape Deck Heart’ had been my entry into Turner’s world, I may not have jumped in so heartily. But for those of us already enamoured, devoted, besmitten by the ‘skinny half-arsed English country singer’, there is all the more to burying him deeper into our souls.

9/10

‘Tape Deck Heart’ will be released on the 22nd of April from Xtra Mile Recordings in the UK and the next day most everywhere else.

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2 Responses

2:16 pm
17th April 2013

RT @tgtf: Cheryl listens to the new one by ‘the skinny half-arsed English country singer’ Frank Turner @fthc – Tape Deck Heart http://t. …

2:56 pm
17th April 2013

@tgtf Not that it matters a ton, but so you know, Frank changed his twitter to @frankturner.

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