Album Review: Frank Turner – Songbook

Frank Turner has been a household name for over twelve years, a singer who brings classic sounds to exceptional song-writing and somebody who has embedded his albums into the hearts of many a person. With six albums under his belt as a solo artist, Songbook, is the newest in his collection of work, an album that incorporates his old classics alongside his new music. All showcasing the talent that Frank holds: A talent to make the old seem new.

On speaking to Frank, he said himself on this album: “At ‘Lost Evenings’ this May, I played 85 of my own songs across the four nights at the Roundhouse, which gave me a chance to look over my catalogue as a whole. I’m also taking something of a stylistic left-hand-turn with my (as yet unfinished) 7th album, due next Spring, so I thought this would be an interesting time to survey what I’ve done and where I’ve been so far as a songwriter.”

The album opens with one of the best songs about millennials Four Simple Words, a song that has forever been brilliant with its humour, placed directly next to some brilliant composition. A song that lifts your spirits, makes you chuckle, and overall is just exceptionally happy in its delivery.   I Still Believe, Recovery, Plain Sailing Weather and Polaroid Picture all appear on the songbook itself, giving the songs a chance to shine again with their brilliance. Frank said: “I’ve always been interested in re-interpretation of my own work, it’s something I enjoy in other bands (Counting Crows in particular). I’ve done a lot of this live over the years, so I wanted to get some of it down on record. Some of these versions are, to me, definitive, better than the album versions.”

There She Is, is a personal favourite on this new album. Everyone knows on listening to Frank’s earlier albums, he’s had to put up with a lot of heartache – goddammit Amy! But it’s a perfect love ballad, a song that reminisces on the past, isn’t hiding any meaning, and is completely honest. What’s amazing about Frank Turner himself is his ability to write these songs, not worry about whether he makes it to number one, he just writes from the heart. His writing is simplistic, it’s meaningful and it’s wonderful: “I have wondered, through the dark, through the dirt / I was hurt and in the end I came back to the start / And I stumbled, lord knows how I stumble, I slipped on myself, no help from anyone else / I fell in love and I was humbled.” Just don’t listen to this song whilst sat in a coffee shop if you are too in love and humbled: you will cry.

Long Live The Queen is a classic and brings the sounds of the old Frank Turner, allowing his vocals to shine alongside the rock and roll sound that he always seems to fit perfectly into whatever song he is achieving. Now just to confuse his whole audience, the queen in this song is not the 90-year-old monarch, but it’s a song about a friend dying. The melancholic lyrics are intense and tell a tragic story, but the production itself allows this song to tell itself. It starts happy, it starts upbeat, but as the story comes to its tragic end, it slows down. It allows the audience to feel and to listen.

Now let your mind travel back to 2011, you probably had a sweeping fringe, wore baggy tops, told your parents you were too old to listen to them and on the radio comes Wessex Boy. Now imagine sitting on a train six years later, hating life because you’ve just graduated, you’ve decided to buy the new Frank Turner album (or as he’s well aware you’re streaming it on some cool kid app) and Wessex Boy comes on. You’re smiling right?! Yes, Wessex Boy has made it onto Songbook. With its upbeat and nostalgic feel, this folk song is Frank at his absolute best and you get to listen to it again and again without ever getting bored. That’s the power of Frank Turner.

This album is exceptional. Songbook allows Frank to share the past twelve incredible years with his fans. It allows him to show new fans that this is what he has spent twelve years doing. He made folk new. He has a power over music, a joy that makes people care. It’s exciting as a fan of Frank Turner to see whether I’ll be writing another review in twelve years, feeling the exact same emotions and honestly I know I will. Frank you’ve done it again, you’ve allowed people to fall in love with folk, to connect with lyrics and you’ve done this by making music that makes people listen, makes people dance and makes people love.

Rachel Allman