Frank Turner - 'Be More Kind' Album Review
1. Don't Worry
3. Little Changes
4. Be More Kind
5. Make America Great Again
6. Going Nowhere
7. Brave Face
8. There She Is
9. 21st Century Survival Blues
11. Common Ground
12. The Lifeboat
13. Get It Right
Frank Turner and his band, the Sleeping Souls, were on tour in the USA in 2016 “When the world decided to go collectively nuts” and the songs that make up 'Be More Kind' started to come together.
The theme that flows through this album is empathy and support for each other. There are angry moments but even in these tracks, there is a recognition that we can only move on by coming together, understanding each others differences and celebrating them rather than ridiculing them. As with a lot of Frank’s work it captures the moment. A mix of politics and the personal. A mix of the ‘establishment’ and the rest of us.
The album opens with ‘Don't Worry’ which is a simple song with Frank on guitar. It is a song full of empathy and support. ‘Don’t let your heart get hardened into stone’ ‘You should spend more time with the dos than the don’ts’. ‘And when you cant pull through I will help you I wont push you away’. One of the most beautiful songs I have heard from Frank.
‘1933’ was the first single from the album and is more like the Frank we have got used to. ‘The first time it was a tragedy the second time it’s a farce’ he snarls. ‘If I was one of the greatest generation, I’d be pissed, I’d be screaming at my grandkids that we already did this.’. This is glorious, furious politically driven Punk which makes comparisons with todays popularist politics with that in 1933.
By way of contrast, ‘Little Changes’ is a very clever Electro Pop song, with insightful lines like ‘Giving up is too easy when we could have tried a little bit harder’ and ‘We spent our energy getting angry instead of being kinder’. The way he changes the interpretation of little changes is very clever.
‘Be More Kind’, the title track starts with a simple guitar riff. ‘In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind. Be more kind my friend, try to be more kind’. A simple song with a great melody and the lyrics are gently sang with a sense of melancholy. A cry for everyone to be more empathetic.
The tempo notches up again with another single from the album ‘Make America Great Again’. This track seems to have an almost alt electronica vibe and a bit of a pastiche , but the message is serious. Taking one of Trumps election cries and turning it on its head. ‘Lets make America Great Again by making racist ashamed again, Let’s make compassion in fashion again, Lets make America Great Again’ Frank has toured America and comments that he has predominantly met good people there. There is a lot of fuzz and a lot going on in this song. It is full of catchy hooks with keyboards and fuzzy guitars. After the simple track before it, this anthemic track adds contrast.
'Going Nowhere' has a thumping bass drum. There follows lists of things that go wrong and knock you down. Frank reassures us that ‘ I’ll be there in there like swimwear, Im going nowhere’. A great line referencing the disbelief that a lot of people have felt is, ‘ When you made your best plans but somehow they just didn’t work. Cos you were counting on your country men and women not to go berserk’. This is a simple stripped back guitar track with a nice rhythm, which just comforts you.
The following track, ‘Brave Face’ again has great lines such as ‘Put on your brave face and get ready for the end of the world’. It is full of guitar and drums. This is an annihilistic song but suggests shared hope. ‘If we have to do this lets do it smiling’.
‘There She Is’ should be familiar to anyone who has heard 'Songbook', as this was included as a taster and what a taster it is. It is a beautiful ballad. A song about being saved by love ‘I needed someone believed me, I needed someone who wouldn’t leave me’. The chorus has intricate word play then simple conclusion. The music is uplifting. A stunningly beautiful song. That stops you in your tracks and demands your full attention. It builds throughout with blazing horns at the end
Frank ventures into pure Rock with ‘21st Century Survival Blues’. There are complex musical arrangements combined with catchy hooks. An apocalyptic viewpoint with a real sense of foreboding.
‘Blackout’ the most recent release starts with a catchy riff. It is a real touch of the 80’s with quick guitar strumming very reminiscent of 'Haircut 100'. The subject matter is far darker than anything they would do though, with a surprisingly catchy chorus. It begs us to ‘Meet me in the middle’, suggesting that although there has been a polarising of views maybe we can find some ‘Common Ground’. Which is the next track and follows on similar vein to the previous track, full of electronic percussion. ‘If we were to build ourselves that bridge, we could meet in the middle and forgive, a song of hope and reconciliation'.
‘The Lifeboat’ is like a dark Folk shanty of old, with Folk guitar and lyrics delivered with a menacing Folk drawl. Disease and dread is abundant.. ‘Stay with the boat lest ye be drowned’. But the sense of hopefulness grows ‘ There is hope now in the wind, in the millions that are marching and demanding we be kind’. This harps back to Frank Turner’s youth and the power of protest to do good.
The Album concludes with ‘Get It Right’, which starts with just a vocal and a guitar. ‘Last night I had a vision of people asking questions instead of talking without listening’. Although it is an angry Folk song, it is a simple song with a measured delivery. Just when you think it is an understated end to the album the song builds with more instruments, joining the throng, mandolin, tambourine backing vocals everyone in the band joins in ensuring that the album ends with hope.
'Be More Kind', is a far more diverse album than any of Frank’s other albums. Sure there is the Punk Folk anger and energy, but also there are shades of Rock, Alt Electronica, and even shades of 80’s Pop. All of this supports Franks great lyrics and his masterful storytelling, and I make no apologies for concentrating on some of the sublime lyrics.
Frank Turner seems, throughout his career to have tapped into my mind and caught my outlook of the world and on world events. This is his seventh studio album. I have listened to his albums including the compilation ‘Three Year’ albums in the vain aim of finding a song that I don’t like. Having heard his seventh album, the search for the mediocre song continues.
He has surpassed himself with this album. Even by Frank’s standards this is an exceptional album. In a world where sometimes it feels that the lunatics have taken over the asylum and where empathy and unison seems devoid, what is wrong with us trying to 'Be More Kind'. It seems simple enough, perhaps we should take Frank Turners advice and give it a go.
Be More Kind is released on the 4th May on the Xtra Mile Label.
Website - frank-turner.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/frankturnermusic/
Review - Tony Creek