Frank Turner has had an excellent 24 months – with the combined release of The First Three Years and Love Ire & Song in early 2009, followed swiftly by the outstanding Poetry of the Deed in September that same year, his musical output was second to none. He also graced a plethora of festivals throughout 2009 and 2010, including Glastonbury, Reading, and headlining Two Thousand Trees Festival.
Now, as 2010 draws to a close, Turner has almost become a household name in the realm of folk-punk, causing the release of the Rock n Roll EP to be widely anticipated. Only five tracks long, the nature of the EP means that there isn’t much scope for musical development. And although you cannot criticize the artist for the restrictions of the form, this lack of development unfortunately grates.
Following ‘I Still Believe’, the punchy and exultant opener that has ‘sing-a-long’ written all over it, Turner falls a little flat, making the record but a flash in the musical pan. The following track, ‘Pass it Along’ is a prime example of this. It’s basic and pleasing to listen to, without causing too much thought from the listener, but the man himself seems a little tired through most of the track. He really comes into his own about two thirds of the way through, where the lulling acoustic guitar gives way to something a little more passionate, but one fears the listener may have already switched off by this point.
Furthermore, ‘Rock n Roll Romance’ seems to be a lazy insertion. The lyrics have such outstanding potential, detailing the loss of traditional romance in a hectic world where lovers stay in bed all day after heavy nights before, but the musical accompaniment is dull. And concluding track ‘The Next Round’ is vapid and empty of the emotion Turner is known and loved for.
However, ‘To Absent Friends’ comes along like a singular star on a stormy night. The first ten seconds appear to be going the same way as the rest of the record, but when the music kicks in, this track becomes something spectacular. It’s chirpy and exciting to listen to, begging the listener to shake off their sorrows and dance around like a crazy person. The addition of the piano is brilliantly placed too, accompanying Turner’s shouty vocals excellently.
Overall, this is a record that didn’t stand out all too much for me, and it would have been shoved into a stack of rarely listened to records absolutely if it wasn’t for ‘I Still Beleive’ and ‘To Absent Friends’. They really are the saving grace of this record, and demonstrate that amidst a lifestyle that is nothing short of hectic, Turner can still bring about some musical gems.