Review: Tape Deck Heart, Frank Turner


Tape Deck Heart the fifth studio album by Frank Turner was released last month and is the first album recorded abroad. Like all artists who reach a certain level of fame,  the cliché of going to LA to record an album called. Despite being made thousands of miles of England the sound of his music hasn’t been altered at all, which is a good thing because his style has a very definite and unashamed Englishness about it.

The main subject of the album seems to be loss and breaking up with track titles like ‘Recovery’, ‘Losing Days’, ‘Good & Gone’ and ‘We Will Not Overcome’. The opening line on the album is “Blacking in and out in a strange flat in east London./Somebody I don’t really know just gave me something/To help settle me down and to stop me from always/Thinking about you.” Which kind of sets the tone of the rest of the album, though it is juxtaposed by a very upbeat acoustic led melody.

The fact is, Frank Turner writes lyrics like no one else, they are timeless and instantly relatable. The second a song starts it sounds like it’s always been in your musical library and you know the way it goes as it unfolds. Which might lead you to suspect, if you’d never heard him before, that all his songs are either dull or ripped off from other artists. But they aren’t. He has an incredibly distinctive voice and sound that put him apart from other singer-songwriters. He can sing traditional folk songs acapella one minute and then a full on rock/punk song the next with subjects veering from love to politics to dicking about with your mates. And every one of them sounds like a Frank Turner song.

Tape Deck Heart has the same breadth of style on show, even though the lyrical tone of the album is darker than the majority of his previous offerings. There are slower songs like ‘Tell Tale Signs’, about self-abuse and messed up relationships, there are angry songs like, ‘Plain Sailing Weather’, the chorus of which goes “Just give me one fine day of plain sailing weather/And I can fuck up anything, anything./It was a wonderful life when we were together,/And now I’ve fucked up every little goddamn thing.” There is, of course, the standard song celebrating punk rock (Frank Turner was the vocalist for post-hardcore band Million Dead before turning his hand to a slower, more melodic form of music). ‘Four Simple Words’ is the closest thing he can probably make to a Queen track, with its progressive nature and descriptions evoking the party atmosphere of a good gig.

The strangest part of the album is a certain note he repeatedly hits during the last song of the album (though not if you have the deluxe version, which has six extra tracks on it which is well worth the extra couple of quid), ‘Broken Piano’, which is a little jarring. But, once you listen to the song again it actually fits as he’s singing about a piano with only the minor keys left. If I were more musically talented I’d probably have understood it first time round, but there you go!

I was a little lukewarm about the last album, England Keep My Bones, but this time round the band element, The Sleeping Souls, if you will,  fit much better. Even though the themes in the album are quite doom laden the songs themselves are generally upbeat and even though the ones that aren’t are written so well you just sit there and soak up the words. He really does have a knack of being able to write songs that really talk to the universal experiences we all face. In this case, breaking up which the vast majority of us have all been through at some point.

It’s rare for an artist to abscond to America to record a record that sounds like it could have been made in the same way their music has always been produced, but Tape Deck Heart is an example of just that kind of album; all the edge, directness and urgency is still there and that’s thanks to Frank Turner’s indomitably English style. Huzzah!


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