FRANK TURNER Positive Songs For Negative People
Frank – despite all the arrows slung at him about his irrelevant education, or the sheer gall of existing in a irony-free artistic position, has done it again. 2013's “Tape Deck Heart” did exactly what the best music can, must, needs to do – be a lifeline in a sea. For a myriad of reasons, the past couple of years have been exceptionally difficult for me, and yet, in this, there was always … as well as family, friends, and lovers... music, and at the lowest tide, the songs lifted me. Here, on album six, “Positive Songs For Negative People” offers both more of the same, little variation, from before, and at the same time, is a light shining in the dark. It sounds like a best of made of new songs, and in the same of “Get Better” and “The Next Storm”, and “Mittens”, these are some of the best songs Turner has ever written. Hell, some of the best songs anyone has ever written.
'...see the road rising up to meet me and my enemies defeated in the mirror behind'.
There's a wider world view, on occasion : “The Opening Act Of Spring” offers the kind of flourishes expected of folk rock, and at the same time, there's the racket-in-a-bucket he can do in his sleep in the thoroughly average “Out Of Breath”. And, in his heartfelt screaming, there's ocasions where the Turner voice becomes a primal urge. And in this, there's the wonderful “Glorious You”, where Turner again addresses, the same thing he often does – how to be you in a world that doesn't want you to be anything but a worker. And then he brings out the finest individual song he's written since Album#2, with the heartbreakingly brilliant “Mittens” : a song about how love doesn't always quite fit. We've always felt like that – trying to squeeze love out of something that doesn't quite work. There's a set of gutteral yelling around 3 minutes where he seems to give up on language and just expresses something because expression can defeat articulacy. Sure it's sincere, and possibly too sincere, but we exist in a world where too much art is either at best, insincere imitations of emotion, or at worst, meaningless abstraction – either of which use language against us by creating barriers language always sought to overcome.
The second half of the record is less impressive – songs like “Josephine” that sparkle and soar in an acoustic form – become stadium singalongs designed for uplifting arena rock anthems. And then, the record takes a deep breath, and a live, raw “Song For Josh” carries the kind of sentiment we need, just one man and his guitar. I've lost friends the past few years, and almost lost myself in 2007 at my lowest ebb, and when he sings it will kill me to think for a second you felt alone. Why didn't you call?... it ALL comes back.
Deluxe editions carry a 10 song acoustic album. Which is possibly the best single Frank Turner record : his songs start their lives as one man and a guitar, and occasionally their strengths are enscapulated exactly and only there. Stripped of their embellishments, a simple sketch often captures the starkness the song needs – and cuts to the bone. Make no mistakes, humans are emotional, raw, and feelings are nothing to be ashamed of. Feelings are one of the things that elevate us beyond mere automatons. The past few years have been difficult for me, the age where the body starts to fail the spirit, where adulthood is clearly entered, where you have to choose who you are, and what you stand for, and how you live, and there's no turning back now. These songs are part of that, and it's important to know that even in the shape of all things, that we are not alone, and these songs are part of that : “Rejoice, rebuild – the storm has passed.”