Label: Polydor Records
Released: 4th May 2018
Having ‘gone electric’ with his last album, Frank Turner has chosen to double down and move further from the boisterous folk that earned him his name, with his acoustic guitar remaining largely at the back of the mix. If you were put off by lead single ‘1933’, the good news is that it’s somewhat a false flag, with its misdirected negativity and with its rougher rock sound. The rest of the record finds Frank having fun with a few musical tricks you wouldn’t associate with his music. A few tracks are grounded on drum loops, while ‘Little Changes’ pinches a bassline and bounce from the Cure’s ‘Close to Me’, complete with brass section.
Having put his politics backstage in recent years, the last two years of insane elections have prompted Turner to return to the barricade, but rather than endorse specific agendas he mainly seems to want everyone to calm down a bit.
Inspired by Turner’s Stateside touring during the rise and reign of The Orange One, the record is a plea for sanity and civilized discourse that’s likely to fall on deaf ears outside of his peer group. The title track asks us to ‘Be More Kind’, and Frank wants us to #MAGA by “making racists ashamed again”, which is all fair enough when it isn’t being let down by ‘1933’’s poorly thought out “Be suspicious of simple answers, that shit’s for fascists and maybe teenagers”. (Hint: slagging youngsters is a weird take on American politics in 2018, particularly given more recent events in Florida.)
Turner’s journey across America includes a gospel choir, strings, diversions into blues guitar and even a weird trip to the disco on ‘Blackout’ that resembles early Wombats. ‘The Lifeboat’ toys with classical guitar and cello before nicely sliding into a hopeful major key, but it never quite takes off like his best songs do. ‘Make America Great Again’ at least deserves credit for containing one of Frank’s catchiest choruses (it’s just a shame it requires him to repeat 45’s shit-eating slogan) and even manages to pull off an X-Factor key change without falling over itself.
‘Be More Kind’ satisfies Turner’s desire to pull new influences into his songs, and learns from the at times relentless volume of its predecessor, but there’s still some way to go before he eclipses his turn of the decade zenith. Dillon Eastoe