‘I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late.’
Written by Clive James, a terminally ill writer/poet in a poem titled ‘Leçons de ténèbres’ within which he questions his own morality, this gave Frank Turner all the inspiration he needed for his 7th studio album release, ‘Be More Kind’.
Those three words create the spine of this album as it trudges through the darkness to try to find a ray of light, tackling worldwide issues such as Donald Trump, Brexit, dehumanization through social media and the loss of human connections. Through this 13 track album, Frank opens up his eyes to the issues facing the world and offers his own perceptions and how, despite it all looking like doom and gloom, there is always room for more kindness, more love and more resilience to offer a glimmer of hope for what looks to be a pivotal period of time for mankind.
The album opens with ‘Don’t Worry’ a simplistic track that has Frank’s vocals and guitar warmly greeting you and offering an empathetic ear to your daily struggle, it’s jovial and catchy folk vibes help emphasize the message of optimism found in the lyrics, a true pick me up track and it’s a comforting welcome into the album.
From here, Frank diverts his attention to a more global issue with the raw, punk fueled anthem ‘1933’ which takes aim at the way our generation isn’t learning lessons from previous atrocities, 1933 being prevalent as the year the world saw the rise of Nazism, his use of lyrics such as ‘If I was of the greatest generation, I’d be pissed, surveying the world I built, slipping back into this, I’d be screaming at my grandkids, we already did this!’ help to delivery the poignant message with clever wit. The more provocatively titled ‘Make America Great Again’ continues in the political vein, but is a little bit more of a love letter to a land Frank has fallen head over heels for, and reminding the world that their president does not speak for everyone, his message is blunt and serious, without it getting lost within the fuzzy guitars, keyboards and catchy hooks.
Frank has been forthright from the very beginning about his intentions for this album, and he said on numerous occasions that he was looking to expand his sonic horizons and shift the direction of his music off the beaten path, this is mostly evident in electro-pop tinged track ‘Little Changes’ and dance floor filler, ‘Blackout’ both tracks operating on bouncy 80’s pop style synthesizers that shift Frank’s sound completely, although the songs keep Frank’s signature songwriting prowess as he delivers subject matter darker than what those pop influenced sounds may suggest, with ‘Blackout’ dealing with the idea of a worldwide well, blackout.
The titular track, ‘Be More Kind’ keeps things simple, a gentle acoustic sound, with a sentiment that may not be all that original but is always worth repeating, it’s uplifting, catchy and beautifully well written and encompasses the entire album’s message. While he has ventured into unknown musical territory for this album, it’s still oddly refreshing to know that sometimes all that is needed is an acoustic guitar and Frank’s warm vocals, a signature sound for Frank and one that should never be dismissed.
‘Brave Face’ is a punchy track filled to the brim with rollicking guitar and pounding drums, the lyrics operate on the assumption that the end of the world is nigh, and instead of going out with a whimper, greet the apocalypse with a kiss and suggests sharing with a loved one, helps foster a glimmer of hope. This leads into a very different change of pace, for anyone familiar with Frank’s ‘Songbook’ collection, ‘There She Is’ doesn’t offer anything new but it does offer the only power ballad in his arsenal so far, a stunningly beautiful love song, that pines over his muse for the track, as it builds with horns and echoing lyrics that should make this the quintessential, Frank Turner wedding song (Move over, Ed Sheeran!).
Towards the latter stages of the album, tracks such as ‘Common Ground’ help to reinforce the album’s overall message and theme, with it’s electronic percussion driving the song forward and its lyrics of hope ‘If we were to build ourselves that bridge, we could meet in the middle and forgive’ a stark reminder that everyone in this world has common interests that help us relate to our fellow man, and we should be building bridges and not walls that divide us. A more direct song that gives a nod back to Frank’s youthful dalliances into political and protest song, ‘The Lifeboat’ is a shanty of old, that’s dark message of hope is accompanied with folk guitar strings and a menacing tone that demands your attention.
Concluding the album is, ‘Get It Right’ a track which opens with Frank alone with his guitar, and while it helps to reinforce the idea of hope, you’d be forgiven for thinking the track is an understated end to the album, but the song continuously builds itself up as more strings, and more vocals from the band are heard and ends the album on a more united note.
On the whole, Frank Turner’s seventh installment is an evolutionary step in his musical career, a step which he should be admired for taking, as he has created an album with a simple yet clear message – treat people right and respect those around you to help make this world a better place for everyone. He’s dipped his toe back into the political pool of songwriting which the outspoken artist has thrived in previously, and offers up a great serving of infectious forward thinking sounds that asks the questions necessary with catchy tunes and masterful lyrics, making Be More Kind one of his greatest triumphs.
1. “Don’t Worry”
3. “Little Changes”
4. “Be More Kind”
5. “Make America Great Again”
6. “Going Nowhere”
7. “Brave Face”
8. “There She Is”
9. “21st Century Survival Blues”
11. “Common Ground”
12. “The Lifeboat”
13. “Get It Right”
‘Be More Kind’ is available May 4th via Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor Records