Album review: Frank Turner – ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ (Xtra Mile)

The punk troubadour has finally done it with album three

Three kinds of people exist: a) worshippers at the beardy altar of [a]Frank Turner[/a] b) those who think he’s a terrible bastard and c) people unfamiliar with his [a]Billy Bragg[/a]-for-the Facebook-generation shtick. With this third album, though, all the ‘c’s are going to turn into ‘a’s, take over the world and leave the ‘b’s behind.

Because ‘Poetry…’ is not simply Turner’s most consistent record yet, it’s also his best. He’s not just a guy onstage – “There’s no such thing as rock stars, there’s just people who play music/And some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks” goes the invigorating ‘Try This At Home’ – but the kid who saw a bunch of punk bands years ago, got inspired and subsequently let down, and now doesn’t want to make the same mistakes. Hence the gloriously simple ‘Dan’s Song’ and ‘Sunday Nights’, the plaintive and heroically raw ‘Faithful Son’ and ‘Isabel’, which at first seems leaden, but buds into one of the most affecting love songs you’ll hear all year.

And all you ‘b’s call him a hypocrite (Eton-educated punk starts series of ill-fated hardcore bands, picks up his acoustic and finds success), but you all miss the point to a staggering degree. Despite the sloganeering of the lumpen ‘Sons Of Liberty’, Turner’s just as self-deprecating and human as (yup, him again) Bragg. Hell, it’s only when he adds “-ry singer…” after a beat that you realise he didn’t just call himself a “skinny half-arsed English cunt”: could The Rev dissect his ego with such wit?

Turner has a huge grassroots support precisely because of his directness and honesty, and there’s a beautiful straightforwardness to ‘Poetry…’ that will ring true if you’ve ever been young, in love, lonely, angry at the world, or just plain happy to be alive. Which is all of us, right?

Ben Patashnik

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Read more of Ben Patashnik’s musings over at NME’s Notes From The Underground blog.