Saturday, 29 August 2015

Album Review: Positive Songs For Negative People by Frank Turner by Jess Johnston




Frank Turner - Positive Songs for Negative People

To many, six is just a number. In the rock and roll world, it’s a number many fall short of. Not if you’re Mr Turner. The self-professed skinny half-arsed English country singer has done it again.

Positive Songs for Negative People marks Frank Turner’s sixth album. Impressive enough of a feat as it is, it’s also a bloody good string of songs. Being a slight sucker for musical misery, the idea of an album packed with positivity initially left me slightly wary (yes, I like The Smiths…sorry). However I needn’t have worried.

The clever marketing hype for the album saw a trickle-feed of songs being unveiled on the run up to the release date. Like the keen Frank-o-fan I am, I jumped all over those damn videos quicker than when I see a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. On hindsight, I wish I’d waited. The sacred first-listen moments that you have a) conveniently had an urgent dentist appointment for or b) skipped work entirely for (you maverick), were slightly dampened by “oh I know this one…and this one”. I did walk away from the stereo feeling slightly flat (screw you Spotify and/or other music streaming services that are also available, I do it the old fashioned way). But all it took was experiencing the songs live at The Garage in Islington to make all the PSFNP pieces fall into place and it was love at second sight.

Positive Songs for Negative People opens with The Angel Islington; a smooth transition piece from the ending of Tape Deck Heart’s Broken Piano into the beginning of the new album and a new story.

“By the waters of the Thames, I resolve to start again. To wash my feet and cleanse my sins, to lose my cobwebs on the wind.”

Get Better punches you right in the face. Not literally, that would hurt and lead to a lot of paperwork. Turner shouts about fighting on no matter what, and that there’s also the promise of getting better because you’re not dead yet. And the amazingly catchy chorus will get stuck in your head until the end of time.

“I got no new tricks, yeah I’m up on bricks but me, I’m a machine and I was built to last.”

The Next Storm depicts a similar message to that of the infamous Reasons Not to Be an Idiot. Basically, don’t sit on your arse waiting for life to go wrong. (On a side note; Frank Turner and CM Punk in the same music video: ohmygod.)

“I don’t want to spend the whole of my life indoors, laying low, waiting on the next storm.”

The Opening Act of Spring is an uplifting public apology to Frank’s ex-girlfriend, who was apparently the inspiration for the Tape Deck Heart album. Taylor Swift, where are you? This song translates into five words: “sorry I was a dick.”

“Though I have hurt so many people, it was never my intention to hurt you”.

Then follows two of my favourite songs of the album; first up: Glorious You.

Glorious You serves as a reminder that there are people who love and support you no matter what. If you look around, you’ll see people who can help make the world seem half as heavy.

“Come on now if we all pull together we can lift up the weight of the world from your shoulders just for a moment or two.”

Mittens. Oh Mittens, you memorable little monster. I love this song more than Katie Hopkins loves herself. This is about being with that person who isn’t quite right for you and loves you less than you love them. To paraphrase Frank, it’s the person who you fit like mittens with, but never quite right like gloves. And about that one person who you just have to let go of to move forward no matter how hard it may seem.

You left me feeling like we’d never really been in love; don’t wanna fit like mittens, I wanna fit like gloves.”

Out of Breath to me is the Four Simple Words of Positive Songs for Negative People; catchy as hell and makes you want to dance. Even if you suck at dancing. It also makes me feel like I’m stuck in an Irish brawl for some reason. In summary: Out of Breath = live the shit out of your life.

When you meet death, be out of breath, and say you’re pleased to see him ‘cos you’re tired.”

Demons shouts loud and clear that you should make the good out of the bad in your life, and see setbacks as opportunities. Enough said.
P.S. expect to be singing this for about four weeks after you’ve seen it live.

“You won’t get everything you wanted, but you will never be defeated.”

Josephine is about searching for that elusive perfect person and expecting yourself to be similarly perfect in return. Spoiler alert: life isn’t a Disney film. You’re good enough, flaws and all. Now I sound like an advert for a dating website. Disclaimer: I’m not getting paid by match.com.

“Could have been what you need, I wish that I was anyone except for just me.”

Love Forty Down is the only song I’ve known to successfully weave in tennis references and not sound completely ridiculous. Frank convincingly sings about making it through breaking point; a place where we’ve all been, no doubt.

“I’m love forty down, I’m gonna turn this one around, break point.”

Silent Key has taken me a while to understand.

Okay, I still don’t understand it. The main threads I can pull out are that it’s about still being alive even though something feels so awful it could kill you (not literally, I hope). NB: a silent key is actually a deceased radio operator. Cheerful; no, informative; yes.

“It came as a surprise to realise that as she lost everything, the world was revealing a transmission so real that she understood everything; you’re still alive.”

Song for Josh is a beautiful tribute to Frank’s friend Josh Burdette who unfortunately took his own life. The live studio recording of the whole album really comes into its own here; where the emotion in Frank’s voice is almost heart-breaking. Although it’s not a positive feel-good anthem like the majority of the album, it’s a powerful end to a powerful sixth album.

I can’t say for certain what I would have said, but now I am helplessly silent instead. There’s a hole in my heart and in my head, why didn’t you call?”

There are only so many words and so many ways to make songs sound original and brilliant. Many artists fall into the trap of changing some riffs, warping some words and rinsing and repeating what has worked for them previously when they produce their later albums. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls have managed to produce another potent masterpiece which tells a powerful story and demonstrates Frank Turner’s musical career is certainly not dead yet.