A worthy, if somewhat chaotic, follow-up to Frank Turner's previous releases.
Like his previous releases, Be More Kind, Frank Turner‘s seventh studio album, is a multi-faceted record with more than one narrative to it.
At times personal, at times overtly political, the record is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. More than once, in tracks such as ‘Make America Great Again’ and ’21st Century Survival Blues’, the album makes a statement on Turner’s views on issues such as the Trump presidency and climate change, veering between criticism of the status quo and courting controversy on both sides of the US political spectrum. ‘1933’, on the other hand, takes a look back at the politics which lead to Hitler’s rise to power prior to the Second World War, and warns of the need to ‘be suspicious of simple answers’.
At the other extreme, tracks such as ‘Be More Kind’ and ‘Going Nowhere’ are more personal and thoughtful. Turner himself said more than once during the recording of the album that he wanted it to be ‘episodic’, and this certainly comes through.
The stand-out tracks on Be More Kind are those that hark back to Turner’s previous releases. The title track has a reflective, yet positive message to it similar to many of the recordings from 2011’s England Keep My Bones, while the anthemic sound of tracks such as ‘There She Is’ and ‘Don’t Worry’ evokes the stylings of 2015’s Positive Songs for Negative People and its uplifting tracks such as ‘Get Better’ and ‘The Next Storm’.
Overall, the album is one of two halves and conflicting directions. While this makes it less effective as an end to end listen, it by no means detracts from the quality of the two different threads within. Many of the highlights of the album are the quieter, more personal and introspective tracks, which showcase Turner’s prowess as a songwriter and his ability to inspire deep personal self-reflection and consideration through his lyrics. The chorus of ‘Don’t Worry’ is a good example of this, urging the listener: “Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do […] Don’t give up if you just can’t get away”.
This confusion extends to the musical stylings of the album – while ‘Common Ground’ verges on the sound of modern R&B and ‘Make America Great Again’ channels Bastille, ’21st Century Survival Blues’ and ‘There She Is’ are definitely reminiscent of the folk-rock sound present on earlier albums.
It is the quality of individual tracks which makes Be More Kind a worthy successor to Turner’s previous efforts. Although there isn’t one consistent message across the entire album, the individual messages and directions taken on different tracks across the album are all relevant and poignant, and serve as a strong reminder of his talent as a songwriter.
Be More Kind is available now via Xtra Mile Recordings.