Frank Turner - 'FTHC' Album Review
1. Non Serviam
2. The Gathering
3. Haven't Been Doing So Well
4. Untainted Love
6. My Bad
8. A Wave Across A Bay
9. The Resurrectionists
11. Perfect Score
12. The Work
13. Little Life
14. Farewell To My City
FTHC (an abbreviation for Frank Turner Hardcore, the name that Turner’s fan base has adopted), is the ninth studio album from the English singer-songwriter, and is his first solo record since 2019s 'No Man’s Land'. The album features Turner’s backing band, The Sleeping Souls, with drums provided by Nine Inch Nails’ and Angels & Airwaves drummer Ilan Rubin after Nigel Powell’s departure from the band in 2020.
The album begins with the blistering third single ‘Non Serviam’, which echoes Turner’s past band Million Dead and only clocks in at two minutes. The song marks a big tonal shift in Turner’s solo sound, with an especially apparent difference to the tone of 'No Man’s Land'. With fast paced riffs and frantic drums, as well as Turner showing how talented he is with unclean vocals, this is sure to be a Punk song to be remembered. This is probably one of my favourite songs on the album and is a perfect introduction to the newest era.
We then move on to lead single ‘The Gathering’, which moves a little closer to familiar territory with Turner’s solo projects, but still maintains a harder edge. This is an anthem that rallies Turner’s fans in the brief two minutes and forty seconds it takes, but the message it has is undeniable for those who have been following Frank Turner. This track contains possibly the best guitar work I’ve heard in one of Turner’s tracks, with Jason Isbell providing the phenomenal solo. This is also the only song on the album not to feature Ilan Rubin on drums, but instead enlists the help of one of my personal favourite drummers, Muse’s Dominic Howard.
The second single released, ‘Haven’t Been Doing So Well’ follows. This track, for me, is one of the most blatantly evident songs on the album that explores Turner’s own personal issues, but doesn’t alienate his audience. The song maintains a positive and upbeat tone whilst speaking about some decidedly downbeat topics such as anxiety. There are some typical Turner qualities found within the track, namely the first introduction of harmonica on the album, but still fits even with the darker sound of the previous two tracks.
‘Untainted Love’, the first non single, is the next track up on the album, and once again shows a more vulnerable side to Turner, with lyrics looking back on a past filled with addiction. Once again the song maintains an upbeat sound that contrasts with the lyrical content, with an anthem of chorus chanting “I’m not invincible”. I find this song has a more Pop-Punk sound to it personally, but with that signature Frank Turner twist to it, and it works incredibly well in my opinion. The contrast between lyrics and instruments form an almost bittersweet tone, but the track ends on a positive note with the lyrics “you can’t stay alone forever”.
’Fatherless’ pulls a bait-and-switch, with the opening bars consisting of some very somber, contemplative piano chords, before the drums come in and introduce guitars that almost sound like they’d be right at home in the soundtrack of an episode of The Inbetweeners. The song maintains a constant rhythm with the guitars, with hints of piano creeping through every so often, before a very unruly ending. The song, as the title suggests, is another upbeat lament, this time discussing Turner’s tumultuous relationship with his own father.
‘My Bad’ is potentially the shortest song on the album, clocking in at under two minutes, but has a lot to say in that short period of time. Once again, Turner’s Punk background shines through, with a slightly softer chorus sonically speaking, with lyrics that lambast the government. Turner’s anger towards the current political climate of today clearly shines through, as you can hear a more evident bitterness in his voice, especially as the song comes to a close.
The fourth single to be released from the album ‘Miranda’, slows the pace down for the first time on the album, becoming more reminiscent of Turner’s older solo work. The track once again tackles the relationship between Turner and his father, but in a very different way. This time around, Turner is telling his audience about the change in their relationship after his father’s transition into life living as a transgender woman. The song bears no hint of anger or resentment, and the tonal shift to a softer, more acoustic track shows a tremendous amount of growth.
The fifth single, ‘A Wave Across A Bay’, is the most emotional track on the album for me. The track is a tribute to Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson, who passed away in 2018. It maintains the slower pace that ‘Miranda’ established, and you can hear the pain in Turner’s voice as he’s singing. The song crescendos at the end, which adds to the emotion. I’d argue that this is the perhaps most vulnerable we have ever seen Turner.
Next comes the sixth and final single, ‘The Resurrectionists’, which picks the pace up again. It has a more hopeful and upbeat tone than the rest of the album, with the lyrical content matching the instruments. There’s a very prominent piano line throughout that contributes massively to this, as well as some great layered group vocals towards the close of the track that once again show off Turner’s unclean vocals. I’d say it’s an interesting choice to have as the final single of the album, as there are other tracks I think would’ve worked better, but in the grand scheme of the album it does work incredibly well.
‘Punches’ maintains a fast pace, opening with some solo vocals from Turner before guitars and drums join him. I’m always a sucker for half-time choruses, and it works particularly well in this context, putting an extra punch on the song, especially with Turner increasing the pace of his vocals for the pre-chorus. This song really encapsulates the “keep going no matter what” mindset of Turner and his fans, and is one of the standouts of 'FTHC' for me.
‘Perfect Score’ keeps a faster pace but is a little more on the mellow side, however it does keep an upbeat tone and a good positive message. Turner’s voice is great as usual, but aside from that I think this song is more on the forgettable side. I can see it being a brilliant live track, as every Frank Turner song is, but in comparison to the rest of the album it is fairly weak.
‘Little Life’ slows the pace down again, but still remains interesting. While I do love that Frank is embracing his Punk roots again, I find his voice works just as well for slower, more contemplative songs, and this just goes to prove it. The instrumentals in the chorus are very spacey and compliment Turner’s voice beautifully, and almost remind me of Biffy Clyro. The stripped back ending puts a perfect finish to the song that I can very easily see becoming a live staple for the slower, more intimate moments in Turner’s shows.
The final track on 'FTHC' is ‘Farewell To My City’. This track feels more like spoken word set to music as opposed to a song at the beginning, which makes you sit up and listen as it makes you think there’s more of a story to be told. The instrumentation swells as Turner’s voice gets more and more intense, transitioning into a shout, and then halfway through he begins singing. The instruments die down to leave Frank singing, before they come crashing back in for a triumphant end that, I feel, perfectly sums up the communal spirit of Frank Turner, before ending on sounds of amp feedback that make you reminisce about the tiny local gigs you’ve been to.
I’ve been listening to Frank Turner for nearly half of my life. My dad introduced me and my brother to him in 2011 after seeing him at Download Festival by playing the latest album he had out, 'England Keep My Bones', for us, and I remember being blown away. I had that same feeling when I saw him myself for the first time at Slam Dunk Festival, and particularly when he played 'Non Serviam'. At that moment I knew that 'FTHC' would give 'England Keep My Bones' a run for its money as my favourite Frank Turner album. The Punk influences are arguably the clearest they have ever been in a Frank Turner solo album, but he never strays too far from the path he’s followed over the past few years (pun very much intended). This album is a love letter to his fans, family and friends. It is damn near perfect, and even in the moments it drops, it still shines.
Website - https://frank-turner.com/
Facebook - https://m.facebook.com/frankturnermusic
Review - Gordon Rae