Frank Turner: England Keep My Bones
Things Frank Turner doesn’t believe in: undue subtlety, overly fussy arrangements, the existence of God. Things Frank Turner does believe in: you, me and the power of rock ‘n’ roll to save our souls. And also, power chords. The UK songwriter got his start fronting Doc Martin-scuffing punk bands before embarking on a solo career combining bare-chord strumming and folk storytelling with the galloping velocity of SoCal skate punks like Bad Religion. His pedigree and approach no doubt sets off alarms for people who unduly worry about Americana’s authenticity, but it’s a thoroughly effective mixture, delivering crunchy hooks and impassioned screeds at a ruthlessly uncluttered clip.
It helps that at times Turner’s voice brings to mind an oddly appropriate blend of Billy Bragg sincerity and NoFx leader Fat Mike’s irreverence. Turner brings a compelling passion to his work (“no one gets remembered for the things they didn’t do” is one of his archetypical lyrics) and sings with enough gusto that you believe it when he speaks of rock ‘n’ roll’s salvation powers, but he includes enough shameless shout-along choruses to ward off accusations of navel-gazing. On England Keep My Bones’ closer “Glory Hallelujah,” Turner stretches out his vowels until “There is no God/we’re all in this together” becomes a stadium-sized chant that will no doubt delight atheist countrymen like Ricky Gervais and will annoy staunch believers who find the chorus drilled into their heads. Turner peppers England with delicately a few plucked solo meditations and even a needlessly showy acapella interlude, which add enough diversity to justify this thing going longer than a punk-appropriate half an hour. Smart young miscreants that have outgrown the Warped Tour but aren’t ready for the Ted Leo back catalog could do worse, and acoustic rock fans that want more than somnolent campfire melodies couldn’t do much better.