Album Reviews

Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song

(Xtra Mile) UK release date: 31 March 2008

Now that Billy Bragg seems to have entered a period of middle-age dotage, we need songwriters like Frank Turner more than ever.

Following on from his excellent 2007 debut Sleep Is For The Week, Turner returns to our stereos with another thrilling blast of electric folk. Blending the personal and political in a way that Bragg fans will relish, Love Ire & Song does exactly what it says on the tin and affirms Turner as one of our most potent songwriters.

The rather clumsily titled I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous sets the tone of the album, with the gentle guitar strum gradually building up to a full band climax. Contrasting Turner and his friends and the media whores on the celebrity bandwagon, the song is a celebration of what it is to be human, with all our frailties and insecurities: “Let’s begin at the beginning/We’re lovers and we’re losers/We’re heroes and we’re pioneers/We’re beggars and we’re choosers/Skirting round the edges of the ideal demographic”.

Balancing the subtle and the sledgehammer is Turner’s forte, and the second track Reasons Not To Be An Idiot is reminiscent of Thatcher Fucked The Kids in its directness. The song continues the album’s overarching theme – how we cope as functioning human beings in contemporary society without becoming desperate and lonely. After all, what we really want is “to get warm just like everybody else”.

Photosynthesis has been getting some welcome radio play this year, which is fitting as its one of Turner’s best tunes and looks set to be his signature song. “I won’t sit down/And I won’t shut up/And most of all I will not grow up” he asserts, drawing a line in the sand to chide those of us “shuffling down the path of mediocrity”.

Substitute and Better Half cleverly explore the difficulty of loving someone and suffering for your art. Both songs stand up alongside their counterparts on Sleep Is For The Week and demonstrate that Turner is blossoming as a romantic poet in the Bragg mould.

The title track acts as a personal manifesto and a state of the nation address. What could have been heavy-handed is saved by Turner’s passionate delivery and his ability to bash out quotable lines at will.

Pleasingly, the second half of the album maintains the momentum of the first. Imperfect Tense is a rollicking upbeat number concerned with forgetting the past. Its simplicity provides a welcome contrast to the ensuing To Take You Home, a full-bodied folk song with busy percussion and impressive picking. Long Live The Queen, meanwhile, provides an apt summation of Turner’s worldview: “Focus on the good, fuck the rest.”

For all his in-your-face hectoring, Turner has rarely shown signs of emotional fragility on record. Love Worth Keeping and the closing Jet Lag change all that, and are the two most open, heartfelt songs he has ever recorded.

Two albums into his career and Frank Turner has already proved he has what it takes to be a great songwriter. Buy this album as a matter of urgency.

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More on Frank Turner
Frank Turner – Be More Kind
Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed
Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song