Music Critic Frankie Rhodes writes how Frank Turner’s latest album explores themes of belonging, embracing relationships new and old, and coping with grief in a raw, electrified way
If Frank Turner’s 2018 album Be More Kind was a whisper, his latest release FTHC is a shout. Both deal with themes of belonging, embracing relationships new and old, and coping with grief, but FTHC confronts these topics with a raw, electrified energy.
After the punky ‘Non Serviam’ and ‘The Gathering’ set the bar for a full-blooded album, Turner leans in closer with his upfront track, ‘Untainted Love.’ With a title that seems to address the artificiality of the music industry, Marilyn Manson’s psychedelic ‘Tainted Love’ cover comes to mind, Turner tackles his years of substance abuse, declaring that ‘I’m not invincible after all.’ A descending guitar backing fades out momentarily to make way for his realisation: ‘the one thing that I never accounted for was love.’
Next up, ‘Fatherless’ teases a few bars of a piano ballad, before a drum-beat announces Turner’s childhood tale of being ‘shipped off to a dormitory / full of kids who made no sense to me.’ With shouted verses and a satisfying rocky chorus, Tuner laments the absence of a father-figure. The later track, ‘Miranda,’ seems to respond to and perhaps resolve this issue. It tells the story of Turner’s parent, a transgender woman who has recently completed her transition. With a The Kinks-like electric backing, this song feels like a nod to ‘Lola’ with a more open, empowering message. Fittingly, Turner meets Miranda properly for the first time on a ‘sunny afternoon,’ and embraces getting to know her for ‘who you really are…and who you’ve always been.’
A couple of tracks later, after the moving tribute to Hutchison, the childhood theme returns again, as Turner narrates his coming-of-age with a witty satirical voice on a parallel with Blur’s ‘Park Life.’ Piano notes lurking in the chorus lighten the mood of this track, and the staccato bridge sees Turner ‘searching for something that could bring us back to life.’
There is still room for romance on this album, and ‘The Work’ is a bittersweet document of love in the midst of mundane domestic routines. ‘It’s the work that makes it worth it,’ the short chorus rings out, with synth riff that almost verges on pop. Immediately next is another kind of love-song, ‘Little Life,’ which describes how everybody’s world shrunk during the pandemic. The acoustic edge of this track follows on from Turner’s former Be More Kind, and his resolution that ‘I guess that this little life is gonna have to do,’ was infused with unexpected joy.
Closing FTHC, ‘Farewell To My City’ returns to the talk-singing that Turner nurtures throughout the album to narrate the cinematic ending of his time in London. The steady, seemingly endless beat reflects the ‘7,300 days’ that he has spent in the city, before rising guitar riffs anticipate the final curtain. This track reveals some of the most creative spoken-word poetry, before Turner sinks into singing: ‘I got tired of London, not tired of life.’
The sound of tuning up a guitar at the end of the very last song suggests that this is not an ending for Turner, but merely a beginning. The singer’s own consolation that he will ‘still see [London] in shows’ reflects our anticipation for his upcoming live tour. FTHC is made to be performed in stadiums, with an overarching message that if you really believe in something – then it’s worth shouting about.
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