Two of my favourite singer-songwriters have returned with albums in the past couple of months. First came a very revved up Ben Harper, still reeling from his relationship woes with Laura Dern, all angry, bluesy and incredibly LOUD. I enjoyed Harper’s ferocity on Give Till It’s Gone, a powerful venting of pent-up frustration with a vaguely therapeutic air about it.
In stark contrast to this comes England Keep My Bones. Frank “Wessex Boy” Turner’s 4th album is so jaunty and upbeat, it’s as if he wrote these songs whilst skipping through the Wessex countryside in a skirt made of grass, daisy-chain bandana wrapped dotingly about his head. And he’s supposed to be the punked up one.
As the album title hints at, Turner has one thing in particular on his mind during these folky meanderings… the island he calls home (although, I’m pretty sure England is not actually an island). On England Keep My Bones, the former Million Dead vocalist has slammed his punk-attitude gauge right down to the ground and given his folk dial a hearty shove to the top, to allow him to celebrate everything he loves about being English. For most people this endeavour would probably take all of 5 minutes but our dear Frank manages to gush for a full 45 minutes on his thriving national pride.
And, overall, I find his passion and fondness for our home nation endearing. At certain soaring moments it actually makes me damn proud to be English. I’m with him every step of the way as he flounces about Britain in Rivers, tracing our “rivers from the cities to the seas”, and then connect with him 100% on the sweetly nostalgic trip to where he grew up in Wessex Boy. And I fucking love the Town-Crier “here-yee here-yees” on I Still Believe. How quintessentially English, what what what?
He sounds like a much more settled, less edgy, Turner on this album, at ease with the point in life he’s reached and keen to enthuse on the bumpy ride that got him this far. His earnestness has always been his finest characteristic and I find it refreshing to hear him content for once.
HOWEVER… I do have my gripes. This review ain’t a somewhat average 6.5 for nothing. Rather paradoxically, it is his very earnestness that draws the gripes out of me over the course of this album. This is because, mixed in with Turner’s worshiping of all things English are some blatant, and rather too clichéd, motivational sermons on making the most of yourself, on getting off your arse, going out there and bloody well succeeding in your life. Lead single Peggy Sang The Blues is a prime example: “And Peggy sang, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go!” wails the chorus. And on I Still Believe, where “rock n roll saves us all”, anyone can take the stage and “make miracles on minimum wage”. Sometimes he just gets a tad too self-righteous, a tad too in your face with his fervent preachyness. It almost makes me want to say bollocks to it all, and go running off celebrating my Englishness with the Sex Pistols.
Ultimately though, I can let him off his corniness every now and again, though I know many will not. Because, clichéd as he may be, you just know he believes wholeheartedly in every single syllable he sings. Which is more than I can say for the clichéd territory Arctic Monkeys are wondering haphazardly down at the moment.
So thank you Frank Turner, for reminding me of the things I need to do this summer, for reminding me that there’s more to being English than miserable 0-0 draws with Algeria and that I’d be a fool not to get out there and make the most of it….. urgh! I nearly threw up just typing out that cheese. Goddamn you Frank!
Ch-Check It Out If You’re Partial To – English folk music; motivational speeches; being English; strolls through the countryside; making the most of yourself; the existential atheist’s point of view on life; Shakespeare; the importance of being earnest
Fantastic Track – Rivers