When the Rock & Roll EP was released late last year, the assumption that Frank Turner would break out of the inconsistent rut that was created by his latest record The Poetry of the Deed, was foiled. These astronomical expectations were cultivated by landmark release Love, Ire and Song in 2008, and left the ex-Million Dead front man in an arduous position. His sophomore album was in every way a testament to everything Turner had been about throughout his music career, which was portrayed through the raw passion and punk rock attitude of the record. The greatest reason for Love, Ire and Song’s success however, was the relatable nature of his lyricism; preaching to not whine about the world’s failure to live up to our beliefs and expectations, but to simply subsist. As much as Love, Ire and Song could have been the inception of something brilliant for Turner’s solo career, what followed was the hit or miss record that would go by the name of Poetry of the Deed. Turner’s third release was by no means a bad record, but was plagued by generic messages and predictability. With the release of Rock & Roll, Turner’s once brilliant lyrical talents were transformed into corny and slightly hackneyed expressions, as instituted by “I Still Believe” and “Rock and Roll Romance.” Taking a turn for conventional and charted territory, Turner was in dire need for something fresh and affecting again. And England Keep My Bones may be just that.
“Well I haven’t always been a perfect person and I haven’t done what mom and dad had dreamed. But on the day I die I’ll say at least I fucking tried. That’s the only eulogy I need” shouts Frank Turner in the opening track of England Keep My Bones, directly correlating to those uplifting anthems of Love, Ire and Song. One of the greatest strengths of Turner’s solo work was the ability of the songs to translate into a live setting, and this album is not different in this regard. The tandem of “If I Ever Stray” and “Wessex Boy” seem to have been crafted for the sole purpose of live performances, as each feature stirring choruses, hand claps, and backing vocals. None of the tracks were as primed for the stage as much as “I Still Believe,” which despite its corny message and simplicity is undoubtedly an entertaining listen, especially for being one of the record’s weaker tracks. Despite all of this, England Keep My Bones is far from a one dimensional release, and does not serve as a watered-down version of Love, Ire and Song (as Poetry of the Deed was).
With England Keep My Bones, Turner makes several successful attempts to reinvent the wheel (as far as his music is concerned). Segue track “English Curse” makes for one of the more intriguing pieces on the album, as the song is an English folk tune sung entirely a cappella. Although not as intrinsically rewarding as tracks such as “Wessex Boy,” “English Curse” hints at a bit of experimentation, and contributes to the record’s expansive diversity. Turner’s boldest statement however, comes in the form of controversial closer “Glory Hallelujah.” A blatant atheist anthem, “Glory Hallelujah” provokes the sing-along “There is no God, so clap your hands together. There is no God, no heaven and no hell”.
Previously, aggression was facilitated through Turner’s potent and versatile vocals, rather than the music itself. England Keep My Bones however, makes a greater statement musically than any of Turner’s preceding works as it utilizes strings and horns when necessary. What is most striking however, is the implementation of distortion in several of the tracks; making antagonistic statements on tracks such as “One Foot Before the Other” and “Redemption.” The latter could very well be the most compelling piece that Turner has ever written, as it highlights a heart-wrenching tale of a failed relationship. Whether the poignancy is felt through Turner’s emotive vocals or regretful lyrics, “Redemption” is the “shoulder-shaking” tune that only seems to come around once in a great while. “Redemption” however, is not the only song that steals the spotlight. Lead single “I Am Disappeared” is another track that seemingly has everything, from the piano-driven melody to Turner’s compelling lyrics. “And come morning, I am disappeared. Just an imprint on the bedsheets”.
The roller coaster ride that has been Frank Turner’s solo career has reached another pinnacle with England Keep My Bones, which brings up a serious consideration for being his best album full-stop. What is especially significant however, is that Turner has finally climbed out of the daunting shadow that Love, Ire and Song had cast over the rest of his work, and makes it apparent that the inconsistencies and generic nature of Poetry of the Deed are a thing of the past. Now with twelve new tracks that are ripe for live performance, Frank Turner will continue to enthrall on the stage; solidifying his place as one of the most endearing figures in modern music.
2. Peggy Sang the Blues
3. I Still Believe
5. I Am Disappeared
6. English Curse
7. One Foot Before the Other
8. If I Ever Stray
9. Wessex Boy
10. Nights Become Days
12. Glory Hallelujah
Frank Turner is a burgeoning solo artist based in the United Kingdom. He has toured the UK extensively and gone on a few forays into Central and Eastern Europe since the demise of his former band Million Dead.... read more