09 June 2011

Frank Turner Will Save Yr Life

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut
Not everyone was born to be a king
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury
Everyone can raise a glass and sing
Well I haven't always been a perfect person
And I haven't done what mom and dad had dreamed
But on the day I die, I'll say at least I fucking tried
That's the only eulogy I need

9.1% of all abled-body Americans were unemployed as of June 4th, 2011.

Detroit, Michigan, once the home of both the American automobile as well millions hard-working, blue-collar citizens, is now the home of hopelessness, poverty, despair, and just over 700,000 people.

As of June 30th, a combined 50% of funding will be cut from both Pennsylvania's public schools as well as universities of higher education. Similar cuts have been made all over the country, most notably New Jersey and California.

And about a month and a half ago, Donald Trump was the Republican front runner for the President of the United States of America.

We are a country in trouble.

We are becoming one of the world's underdogs.

Luckily, Frank Turner can empathize with such plights.

I first discovered Frank Turner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 1st, 2009. At the very last minute, I decided to make the five hour trek to see Pearl Jam close the Philadelphia Spectrum on Halloween. I won't get into the reasons why I made the trip, but lets just say I wasn't feeling connected with the world and needed about three hours and forty-five minutes of PJ tearing down the an arena to tie myself back together. What I didn't need was the radiator-shattering car accident I got into in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art the next day. Needless to say, I ended up spending yet another night in the City of Brotherly Love, patiently waiting for my Monday morning's flight out of Philly and into Pittsburgh. Friends from college, Trista and Mark, graciously put me up for the night on their couch and even fed me some really good vegan pasta with white beans. Now, Mark and Trista are, hands down, two of raddest, most genuine people you'll ever meet. We all worked at our campus's radio station, WSRU, and the three of us became connected because of our love for music. And they truly love music, maybe more so than me. And because of their good fortune of living in Philly, they are privy to being on the ground-level for a lot of up-and-coming bands. They go to a lot of house shows, basement clubs, shows that cost less than a number one at McDonalds, and anywhere someone with a guitar and something to say can perform. While talking shop and catching up and being harassed for liking Pearl jam, Trista told me of this English guy named Frank something or another who performed at the Titan House, a punk club that should more appropriately be called a basement, a few weeks back. She said Frank came in, took his shirt off exposing his pale, 150 pound lanky frame, picked up a ragged acoustic guitar, took a swig from a bottle of beer, and, without the fortune of anything resembling a stage or a microphone, played one of the best shows she'd ever seen. Trista, knowing that I hate almost everything and am one of southwestern Pennsylvania's foremost music elitists, still insisted that I listen, and she played me this:

And I liked it.

And I went home to Pittsburgh the next day, went to Paul's Music Mine on the South Side a few days later, and bought Turner's album "Love Ire & Song," and I loved it.

And I listened to that album incessantly over the course of my hour and forty minute round-trip car ride to work each day over the past two-and-a-half years.

And I bought "Poetry of the Deed" and the "Rock and Roll" e.p. and listened to those as well, again, giving both relentless listens.

And not only did I listen to his lyrics, but I thought about them, carefully, and took them to heart.

See, Turner's take on the singer-songwriter is a lot different than almost all of his peers and contemporaries. A good songwriter will pen and perform what he or she knows; they'll tell a story of the world around them, and that's all well and good. It's effective and will draw some emotion and some attention. However, Frank Turner's greatest assets as a musician are his spirit, his empathy, and his ability to compel an audience.

His heart is in all of his songs, and you feel it when you listen; and his heart is a mighty big place with lots of room. Whether he's referring to lost love in songs such as "St. Christopher is Coming" and "Substitute," or being in love ("The Fastest Way Back Home"), Turner's audience can feel sincerity and authenticity in his lyrics. Hell, I've never been to England but know both how stunning and alluring it is ("To Take You Home" and "Rivers") as well as some of its history ("Sons of Liberty") because of the pride his lyrics reflect. He has this way of taking what's on his mind and transplating it to his audience-we understand him.

Monday morning, comes a crawling in
From another weekend choked with cigarettes and sin
I've been busy, so much lately
That every time I get some time to spend
I end up drunk or sleeping in
And I miss you, you're busy too
We call each other up, when we're messed up
And say we'll meet in the New Year
But it's perfectly clear we'll do no such thing
Come the spring

Turner writes each song's protagonist as an everyman: someone that the audience can identify with no matter the circumstance. Anthems such as "Photosynthesis," "Live Fast Die Old," "Try This at Home," and "Love Ire & Song" reflect a social rebellion and an upbeat uncertainty: the world may be changing around us and it's okay to feel scared, insecure, and alone, but God damn it, man, your voice better be heard or what's the point?

'Cos love is free and life is cheap
As long as I've got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can't ask for anything more

And his live shows speak for themselves. If you've never had the good fortune, I'll paint this basic picture: it doesn't matter if he's playing a room of fifty at the Brillobox in Bloomfield or opening for Green Day in front of 50,000 at Wimbley Stadium in his motherland England; by the end of his set he'll have everyone on their feet, singing along, questioning themselves as to why they've yet to hear about this Frank something-or-another and how soon they can hear him again. Oh, and he likes whiskey and PBR and won't hesitate to ask you to go buy him one in between songs.

I just got Turner's latest album, "England, Keep My Bones," and it is standard FTHC: accomplished, exceptional, excellent. I haven't even gotten through my second listen and I've already caught myself taping my foot and humming along, trying to figure out his lyrics; or, rather, how his lyrics are trying to figure me out. Maybe he'll try to figure you out as well.

Frank Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, will be supporting this album with a full U.S. tour this fall, and they'll be visiting Mr. Small's Theatre on Thursday, September 22nd.

Below is a full-album stream of "England, Keep My Bones." Enjoy and happy summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment