Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Frank Turner – The Road

He does care about the young folks…


Alex Wisgard: As frontman of Million Dead, Frank Turner was a firebrand punk, spouting polemic and cracking wise — a revolutionary with a smile. Fast forward six years, and as his records increase in popularity (through pretty admirable word of mouth acclaim), his fangs have been removed one by one. The lead single from his horrifically named third album Poetry of the Deed, “The Road” is a hookless, edgeless, acoustic abortion of tour fatigue, and finds Turner talking a lot — and looking damn smug while doing it — but saying absolutely nothing. The sound of a man pissing on his own bonfire.

Alex Ostroff: This is proper folk, then? Not alt-country Wilco, not acoustic emo Bright Eyes, not literary Okkervil River, but proper folk, apparently. Turner used to be a member of a hardcore punk band, and perhaps as a result, isn’t tied to equations of folk with whispered vocals and finger-picking. He’s not afraid to let his guitars scream or his voice holler. In this, he reminds me of Great Big Sea, a Canadian band who sit firmly at the juncture of harmony-laden folk, Gaelic fiddling, and songs about nautical wanderlust. This is a good thing.

Erick Bieritz: Moving between the superficially dissimilar genres is a way to stumble into musical maturity with punk’s primitivism intact. Neither primitivism or maturity is meant pejoratively here, but nonetheless, jumping from a genre that ostensibly rejects conventions to one that cherishes them risks anachronism and repetition.

Alex Macpherson: Busker mistakes being “moved on” by police and Tube staff for possessing a romantic troubadour spirit.

Martin Kavka: Wow, Billy Bragg has got an amazing plastic surgeon.

Michaelangelo Matos: Like Conor Oberst covering Linkin Park, only not as listenable: not a comparison I make lightly.

Anthony Miccio: Man, I don’t know if Nickelback does covers, but they could really strengthen their market share by covering a blustery English drinking song like this. I’m sure their fans would be grateful for something “appropriate” to put on the jukebox during World Cup games at UK-themed pubs.

Chuck Eddy: He’s not allergic to vocal presence or ringing guitars. Chorus is moderately rousing; verses don’t stick; traveling troubador theme is as old as hats get. Coda feels kinda tacked on.

Martin Skidmore: There’s folk and country tinting the basic rock, and it bounces along pleasantly enough, but his voice does nothing for me, despite his obvious enthusiasm.

Ian Mathers: I’m torn; by the end of “The Road” Turner has built up enough momentum that the song is almost compelling just by virtue of its full-throated roar. But it only gets there by contrast to its annoyingly weedy intro and outro, and in any case Turner’s first verse proves so on-the-nose that any interesting ambiguity he could have fostered is killed. Ultimately, there are plenty of songs that have “The Road”‘s virtues without its weaknesses; unless you really love thinking about the romance of the open road, there’s little reason to listen to this one.

Kat Stevens: Slightly less soul-destroying than the A406.

Additional Scores

Anthony Easton: [6]

8 Responses to “Frank Turner – The Road”

  1. I grew up listening to folk, and still spend a lot of time with it, and though I did not initially like the track, it has grown on me.

    Earnestness and especially folk earnestness, saying what you means in ways as simple as possible, without flourish does not chart, and does not appeal to the underground, and the same anthems are played at the same protests.

    Turner has better material then this (his cover of The Huntsman comes A’Marching is a sophisticated disavowal of the far right and the far left, of the spectacle of political rhetoric, and photosynthesis is a landmark about growing up but remaining engaged, and his live introduction to Thatcher Fucked the Kid is wryly self aware of his own traditions) but there is something here that has inadvertently grabbed me by labels.

    It’s weird, my love and engagement with chart country is considered eccentric but legitimate in my circles , but i am private in my love of folk music–all kinds of folk music, including work recorded in the last few years, but there is something soul sustaining in them. In this capacity it is similar to me being allowed to intellectualize my faith, but not talk about it as a living, breathing, consuming creature. For someone who claims to have no guilty pleasures, feeling hope, not being jaded, not being an aesthete, and not being cynical maybe among them.

  2. OMG I had no idea he was the dude from Million Dead – they weren’t half bad. What happened?

  3. Ramshackle, almost incompetent, this builds and reaches me. Would give it a 7 or 8. Anthony, I’m an old folkie too, that helps, though the little I’ve heard of the genre since, like, 1970 hasn’t touched me at all. Do you have any recommendations?

  4. (But I do think that Matos’s description is accurate. It made me laugh, anyway.)

  5. You know, like Dar Williams, Paul Duncan, Jill Sobule, Alaisdair Roberts, Rachel Ries, Jenny Toomey, Eliza Carthy, Corb Lund, Tara Jane O’Neil, St Vincent, Scud Mountain Boys, Kelly Mark, Mary Gauthier, Jeffery Lewis, Cyndi Boste, the last couple of Randy Newman albums, the last Kris Kristofferson album, The entire Thompson crew, the first Martha Wainwright album, Page France, I would include Okkervill River but ymmv, Lavendar Dimand but ymmv, and Guy Clark but ymmv

  6. So Anthony E., what about Corb Lund? Got any opinion about him? I don’t, really, but I just got an advance of his new album in the mail, and there are songs about Alberta and Saskatchewan and the Chinook wind, plus two songs about veterinarians, which is probably a record. All of which got my hopes up. Thing is, both his singing and music feel extremely parched to me; am I missing something? Is he worth spending more time with? Or do I quit while I’m ahead?

  7. Er…hadn’t noticed that he was on that list you listed; duh! So…what do like about his music, besides maybe his words?

  8. Corb Lund is fucking brilliant. He writes these epic, tragic songs full of traditional country instrumentation, and story songs, sing along choruses that destabilze, it rocks in places, he knows his way around mandolin and banjo, there are haoowing tales of malefeseance, . Here: http://www.lefthip.com/albums/857