Frank Turner’s road to Wembley Arena was a long but a rewarding one for everyone who had rooted for the punk rock underdog since day one. However, much like Oasis at Knebworth, you wondered whether it could go on meaningfully. Commercially, it has, two big selling albums and big sell out tours but, the feeling of insurgency felt somewhat diminished. Could he relight the fire on new album ‘Be More Kind’?
No one should be grateful for a world that now has Trump, Farrage, Brexit, Grenfell, Royal indulgence, Windrush, working class tories, a growth in anti-Semitism and a general sense of bitterness as the status quo. Nevertheless, it has focused Turner’s song writing. The Spark is lit!
Opener ‘Don’t Worry’, is a gentile ode to like-minded progressive souls that, to not have the answers is not a reason for giving up. Whereas, ‘1933’, turns to his classic sound to kick against the pricks as Johnny Cash would say. Crucially, on ‘1933’, Turner injects his punk rock sense of fun and unity. No one said the rebel alliance couldn’t be fun!
All this said, ‘Be More Kind’ is not all fire breating punk energy. Far from it. There is a subtley and nuance to the song writing not witnessed before. Album title ‘Be More Kind’ is a Springsteen road trip in 3rd gear combined with Celtic folk. ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘Get It Right’ have all of Turner’s instincts for the righteous and a better future. However, they’re delivered in a sombre and reflective mood. The fight clearly hasn’t gone, but the approach is certainly changing.
Anyone concerned that his blend of folk and punk has diminished needn’t worry. ‘Blackout’, sits perfectly in the middle of the two has a pop music gem. ‘1933’ is classic raging against the machine and ‘21st Century Blues’ is an update on Bragg’s classic ‘A New England’.
There was a time when Turner came under attack for not nailing his political colours to the mask. Well, a line in the sand has been drawn. It’s amazing how every generation needs someone to remind everyone about love. From John Lennon to Arthur Lee to Joe Strummer to Bernard Sumner, song writers have continually embodied a collective sense of togetherness. For now, it is Turner’s time.