So I now feel that I’ve given Frank Turner’s new album ‘England Keep My Bones’ sufficient listening to be able to write a good review of it. The title is drawn from a lesser known Shakespeare play, ‘The Life and Death of King John’ and as Turner himself explained in an interview with ‘mindequalsblown’ website, “the album was, for the most part, about mortality, and about Englishness”.
Those themes are abundantly clear throughout from the gentle build up and reflective lyrics of opener ‘Eulogy’ to the medieval ballad ‘English Curse’, this is an album that is all about what it means to Frank Turner to be English and what it means to accept that life has been going on for a long time before you arrived, and will do so again after you die. It’s an album about not just understanding, but taking pride in your place in the world, the fact that you’re just one person among billions being a beautiful thing rather than a negative.
It’s no secret that I love Frank Turner’s music, I’d definitely say he’s my favourite solo artist and so I listen to any new songs from him with that combination of expectance and nervousness that we reserve for our favourite artists. We are sure it will be brilliant but are terrified it might fall short of what we expect from them.
This album didn’t disappoint and it is perhaps an improvement on the previous album in my opinion. I never connected with ‘Poetry of the Deed’ in the same way I love his first two studio albums and the collection of b-sides and alternative takes released under the title ‘The First Three Years’. It was maybe a little too polished and radio friendly when compared to the wonderful roughness and passion of his earlier material. That’s not to say it was a bad album, far from it, merely that by the ridiculously high standards I hold him to, it was a tiny step backwards.
On ‘England’ the passion and the hint of pain is there again. I think I’ve mentioned before my theory about there being two types of music fans; lyrics people or melody people, and that I fall within the lyrics camp. Well one of the things that appeals to me about Frank Turner is the lyrics in his songs, so many of my favourite lyrics come from his music and that fine tradition is continued in this latest album.
I’m going to post a selection of the lyrics that have stood out so far in the album, the lyrics that show the themes of Englishness, mortality, passion and romanticism, themes I have more than a passing interest in.
‘Well I haven’t always been a perfect person,
And I haven’t done what mum and dad had dreamed,
But on the day I die I’ll say “At least I fucking tried”,
And that’s the only Eulogy I need.’
Peggy Sang The Blues
‘And Peggy said “It doesn’t matter where you come from,
It matters where you go,
And no one gets remembered, in this listless, loveless life,
For the things they didn’t do.”’
I Still Believe
‘I still believe in the need for guitars and drums and desperate poetry.’
‘I still believe that everyone
Can find a song for every time they’ve lost, and every time they’ve won
So just remember folks we’re not just saving lives, we’re saving souls and we’re having fun.’
‘And all our sins will be forgiven, washed away to set us free,
By the rivers that run through our homesteads, by myth and modal melody.’
I Am Disappeared
‘We are blood cells alive in the bloodstream of the beating heart of the country.
We are electric pulses in the pathways of the sleeping soul of the country.’
If Ever I Stray
‘And some days it feels like you just can’t win,
No matter what you do or say.
Things didn’t kill me but I don’t feel stronger.
Life is short but it feels much longer’
‘The path I chose isn’t straight and narrow -
It wanders around like a drunken fellow.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to follow,
But if you’ve got my back I’ll go on,
If you’ve got my back I’ll go on.’
‘Oh is love really real and can any of us hope for redemption?
Or are we all merely biding our time down to lonely conclusions?’
‘These failures shift and shake me in the night,
Like I fever I can’t break, try as I might.’
Hope, pride, retrospective thought, passion, desire, despair and determination; all are emotions that are touched upon in ‘England Keep My Bones’ and surely that’s the mark of the truly great music, the songs that manage to combine a great tune with lyrics that are heartfelt and meaningful. It’s the reason that no matter how much I might be enjoying the dancier end of the musical spectrum, no matter how much I’m loving an album that is 90% or more comprised of computer based noises, I will always return to the songs by men and women with guitars and pianos, who sing about life, love and all the painful stuff that goes along with it.
Instead of posting a song here like i usually would, I simply advise you to give the whole album a listen, including the bonus tracks if you can track down a version with them on. If you can afford it and still own a CD player and a set of speakers rather than playing everything through your computer, go out and get a physical copy of the CD, put it in the CD player and just listen, without distractions or skipping songs, appreciate an album in the way it should be.