Frank Turner's 'greatest hits' album is something no-one really asked for, and no one really needs.
With a seventh studio album reportedly on its way in 2018, it seems rather odd that Frank Turner has decided to release what is essentially a ‘greatest hits’ album in Songbook. The album accumulates the very best songs from Turner’s back catalogue, yet begs the question: why? It could be argued that the singer is attempting to gather some kind of fan-based momentum and anticipation for his upcoming work, gathering his best bits all in one place, so those unfamiliar can experience a condensed summary of the artist, but ultimately it seems like Turner’s just looking for another payday.
With only one new song on the album ‘There She Is’, Songbook relies on the success of previous singles such as the up-tempo ‘Get Better’ as well as Turner’s best songs ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘The Way I Tend To Be’. Like any other “greatest hits” album, Songbook epitomises the very best of the artist, but the album as an art form is rather tedious here. In terms of giving Turner a new direction or showcasing any kind of narrative, the album is severely lacking. That being said, it is impossible to not enjoy the album purely on the quality of the content. Although the new song ‘There She Is’ is far from Turner’s best work, appearing overproduced and almost self-indulgent, any fan of the artist will take joy in revisiting the likes of mellow ‘The Opening Act of Spring’ and ‘Mittens’. If this was released at the end of his career then I’m sure it would be viewed in a much more positive light, however knowing that there is more to come, and as soon as the turn of the year, it all just evokes a sense of falsity and needlessness.
Turner doesn’t apply any significant development to his already mammoth discography to warrant or justify an album that merely serves to advertise for his next studio album. There are a few examples of indifferent reworking and remastering of his hits, adding a few harmonies to ‘Polaroid Picture’ and stripping back to an acoustic rendition of ‘Josephine’, which does not appear lazy but again just unnecessary. As a songwriter and musician, there is no doubt to Turner’s talent, and this album is undoubtedly a testament to that, but it is so hard to escape the underlying motive for the album being made in the first place. I have heard Turner’s hits before, and I can hear them again, so for me this album, although very pleasant to the ear, is a waste of everyone’s time. Moreover, in an age where streaming is at the forefront of every listener’s arsenal, the fact that we can already access all bar one of these songs with a click of a button renders it essentially pointless.
The album is, of course, not bad for an artist that has gained a significant cult following over his vast career, but offers us nothing that we haven’t heard before. It is nice to revisit the classics and for Turner to remind us all that he is still here, alerting us to the fact that he will also return with more music in the new year, but that is as far as I can go in praising the album: it’s nice. However, I’m certain that looking back on the album at the end of Turner’s career it will be seen as a triumph and an epicentre to the future listening of the artist, but for now, unfortunately, we just don’t need Songbook.
Songbook is out now via Xtra Mile Recordings