Saturday, September 15, 2012

Frank Turner - Keep My Bones

Although new to the American scene, Frank Turner's old band, Million Dead, for which he was vocalist, seems to have had some amount of popularity. They're punk, which isn't my typical style choice so I honestly don't know much about them. I first heard "I Still Believe" on a college radio station and bought the album it's from, "Keep My Bones," on a whim.

  I loaned this album to a friend who compared it to Mumford & Sons. In the sense that both albums heavily feature acoustic instruments, it's not a bad comparison, but Frank Turner uses a lot more of the instruments of rock (distortion, drums and screaming vocals) than M&S. Many of the tracks lean pretty heavily into rock, sometime veering just a bit into punk (particularly "One Foot Before The Other, which has more than a bit of a punk ethos as well), but with some heavy, heavy dips into folk.

The first song, Eulogy, is short and to the point. It has a little bit of swearing, but it's used to make a point, at least. It also serves as a nice stylistic introduction, with a lonesome sounding acoustic intro that builds up to a crashing rock finale.

The most famous track on the album, at least in the U.S., is "I Still Believe," a song that's in the tradition of "It's Only Rock and Roll" - it's a sort of meta-rock song, a tribute to the power of rock music. I don't often use the term "rollicking," but it applies here. The song has the feel of something slapped together in a club with a few friends, but underneath that there's a deceptive complexity to the music and the themes. I challenge you to not sing along to the chorus.

Overall, though, I have to say my favourite track is "Redemption." I'm a sucker for a sad song, so that problem explains much of it, but it begins with a direct reference to Bruce Springsteen, my favourite songwriter, and moves on in what's either a brilliant paean to his style or a heartbreaking bit of autobiography. Maybe, as with The Boss' best work, it's a bit of both. If I've recently apologized to you for something you'd completely forgotten about, it's probably on account of this song.

There are no truly weak tracks to be found here. "Rivers" is a little on the quaint side, and "Nights Become Days" is a slow song that goes on maybe a verse too long, but the rest is solid. He sings a capella on "English Curse," a daring move for a vocalist who's clearly more confident when he can give a rasping shout over instrumentation, but it works quite well for the song. I wanted to dislike "Glory Hallelujah," a sort of atheist hymn*, but the tune's just so darned catchy. And, well, honest. I do appreciate that.

If you're getting a bit bored of Wrecking Ball and Sigh No More, give this a spin. You'll be very glad you did.

* The chorus includes the rather spare line, "There never was no God." The ungenerous portion of me wants to thank Mr. Turner for using the double negative to inform us of his belief in deity but this is folk/punk, a litter grammatical legerdemain is to be expected.

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