“England Keep My Bones” is very English; there is no other way to describe the fourth studio release from Frank Turner, and having said that it’s a good album, mostly. It won’t appeal to the wide-masses, primarily because Frank Turner is English to the point of romanticism; and when he dies he seems to want his cremated remains dumped into London’s drinking water so that he can became one with the people of London, which can be a bit off-putting.
Upon first listen the album is catchy, and the romantic imagery that Turner uses to capture his listener paints pictures of misty rivers and winding road ambling their way through quaint hamlets and villages (For those of us in the US imagine the set to Robin Hood). Sharply offset with the sometimes harsh, driving lyrics that Turner can deliver it’s an interesting ideal of what punk rock music can, or should be. Remove the loud guitar, sharp drums and driving vocals from the typical “punk-rock” record and what do you get? – How does one describe music that is both spiritually and socially conscious, yet delivered by a seemingly working-class, charming musician? Acoustic punk.
Although not new, acoustic punk (think Violent Femmes), has had new life as of late with artists such as Chuck Ragan, Lucero and Frank Turner recording and touring with an everyman mix of folk, indie, punk rock, garage, and blues that attract a wide variety of listeners. Some of their fans may be unaware of the punk-rock past of these artists, which only adds credibility to their songwriting ability and performances. So it goes with Frank Turner who first rose to notoriety with Million Dead, a post-hardcore English band that was well received but broke up in 2005.
Turner is no songwriting slouch and this album provides him a platform to show off his prowess and his no-nonsense arrangements. (He even throws in an a capella number about kings, curses and blood.) Piano is abundant on this record which lends a full sound and on “I Still Believe” the piano and backing take the listener back to a simpler time, when rock and roll was based primarily on catchy hooks and hand clapping rhythms; it seems gospel in its fervent announcement that rock-and-roll will save our souls and is certainly a crowd favorite at the live shows.
“Glory Hallelujah” is an atheist battle cry with the phrase “There is no God” repeated to the point of almost discomfort, but at the same time raising a voice and declaring his beliefs it’s very punk rock, and probably one of the better songs on the album. With organ and a choir backing the irony is not lost on Turner, the arrangement is well done and his voice sounds great even when belting out at his strongest.
“I Am Disappeared” has a dreamy feel and discusses pirates, Bob Dylan, Hemingway and the absolute terror of being trapped in a life that is not what we dreamed about. It’s very well crafted and would be at home sitting around a campfire with friends or on a large stage filled with lights.
All-in-all this isn’t a perfect album but it’s good, and if you don’t care for Turner this won’t win you over; if you aren’t familiar with Frank Turner this album may be just the thing to win you over, and if you are already a fan this is a solid addition. This may not yet be the work that will make him a household name, but it is certainly on the right path.
More than likely Turner is headed to a town or festival near you in the coming months as Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, seem to subsist on a diet of constant touring and appearances.
– Meredith UnderhillFrank Turner – I Am Disappeared by Epitaph Records