FTHC: The Punk Legend’s Magnum Opus?

A man who should need no introduction, an icon of the British music scene at this point, Frank Turner returned this last week with a follow-up to 2019s polarising No Man’s Land. The singles so far have been pretty good and a lot closer to what Frank is known for, musically. What a fitting first ‘big’ band to review this year! I’ve been looking forward to the album for a while so let’s get to it! 

Opening track ‘Non Serviam’ is a lot heavier than I was expecting, especially given his last album. It’s under two minutes and punk as fuck. Heavy, distorted guitars, a fast pace, and even some harsh vocals from Frank Turner were all things I wasn’t expecting straight out of the gate. It also helps that it’s pretty catchy, both vocally and instrumentally, and the man starts with the great lyrics immediately. What a fantastic way to start an album!

Lead single ‘The Gathering’ is a lot more rock’n’roll than the previous track. Opening on Frank’s shouted vocals with a great blues guitar riff ringing through between each line, it starts well. However, I have to admit that in comparison the chorus feels a tad weak. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it doesn’t feel as big and anthemic and different as I was expecting it to given the man’s track record. It feels fairly ‘Recovery’, but the verse is just as big as the chorus, so there isn’t as much dynamic. It’s still catchy, though, and filled with more great lyrics. The piano being added in the bridge adds an almost epic feel to the build-up. We also get a great little guitar solo afterwards and through the final chorus. It’s a fun track and one that makes the playlist based solely on the bouncing instrumentals.

The biggest single so far, ‘Haven’t Been Doing so Well’, is up next. I LOVE this song. I’ve had it on a lot since it was released last year and it’s everything I love about Frank Turner. A great opening riff, an overall uplifting tone, and as usual some of the best lyrics written in years. The combination of electric and acoustic guitars is a sound that isn’t used enough these days, and it adds so much size and depth to the track that it all sounds massive.

The chorus is catchy and relatable to a hell of a lot of people I imagine, especially after the last couple of years the world has been through. An anthem for those suffering from low self-esteem and mental health lows and understanding that asking for help is okay is something we definitely need more of these days. Easily playlisted yet again, what a track.

‘Untainted Love’ opens on Frank singing over the top of some massive distorted power chords. It reminded me a lot of Dave Grohl in ‘All My Life’. The rest of the band explodes in when the chorus hits, a real good punch to the gut, musically. Also, the gang vocals towards the end of the song as the song title is repeated over and over are a real highlight of the song. It really hammers home the point of the song; an anti-drug track that explains how love saved him from addiction. The kind of raw, emotional, honest writing is what made me fall in love with Frank Tuner, and it is on full display on this album so far.

‘Fatherless’ at first seems like it would slow things down with a beautiful piano opening. However, the pace soon picks up again when the rest of the band comes in after a few seconds. The piano continues at various points throughout the track, a definite nice addition compared to some of the other tracks. As for the rest of the track, it has a similar vibe to it as ‘The Gathering’ but the lyrics don’t resonate with me as much. Of course, they are not meant to, it’s a rather personal song lyrically, but it means it isn’t quite as enjoyable to me. It’s still a good track though!

‘My Bad’ is pretty similar to the opening track and then we reach another single, ‘Miranda’. Opening on an almost country guitar riff was a nice touch, and it keeps that feel and the chilledness throughout. The riff rings through the choruses while the track is stripped back to Frank’s acoustic guitar and vocals for the verses. The lyrics are fascinating too, talking about his father’s transition and them repairing their relationship. It honestly made the hairs on my body stand up and put a massive smile on my face. It’s deeply personal and such an analysis of why Frank Turner is who he is and how he grew up and it’s an honestly heart-warming story. It makes ‘Fatherless’ all the more intriguing now, rounding out the story well. What a songwriter, and what a fucking song.

‘A Wave Across the Bay’ slows things down and gives some breathing room to a so far fast-paced album. It’s a beautiful ballad more reminiscent of the previous album in feel, style, and vocal melody. It reminds me of ‘Graveyard of the Outcast Dead’ a lot, and man, I love that track. Much like that song, this one also brought a tear to my eye. I won’t ruin the subject matter because it is dark and I couldn’t do it justice, but my god is it emotional. What a fitting tribute too. The emotion Frank Turner puts into his music has always been phenomenal, but may be the most emotional album yet.

‘The Resurrectionists’ picks up the pace and adds a heavy jazz element to the music. It’s fucking awesome. I love the whole coffee shop jazz feel that bands are throwing in every so often these days, much like Corey Taylor with ‘The Maria Fire’. Hopefully we get more jazz-rock! It feels redundant at this point but the lyrics are fantastic as usual, and it all easily makes the playlist for all of these reasons!

Both ‘Punches’ and ‘Perfect Score’ are fun, bouncy rock tracks. They are decent album tracks for sure and very enjoyable but aren’t quite as memorable as a lot of the album to this point. If anything, the same thing could be said for the vast majority of the rest of the album. All of them are great songs that I will happily listen to again and again over the next few months, and tracks like ‘Little Life’ and ‘The House Where I was Raised’ sound a little different but still channel a similar energy to a lot of the rest.

Overall: This is a damn good album! I haven’t heard so much emotion in an album in a long time, maybe since Frank’s earlier records, and it really resonates with me. And it helps that the instrumentation and songwriting are as top-notch as ever. There are a few MASSIVE highlights of the album and some of it is up there with some of the best stuff he has ever written. Back to his roots after the last album and I think he truly knocked it out of the park.

Score: 8.5/10

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