Best albums of 2018: #2 Frank Turner “Be more kind”

I’ve been something of a Frank Turner fan for so long that I can no longer remember when or how it started. There’s a bunch of likely sources but there’s no way I could tell you for sure. And yet, to be honest, up to this point, it’s mostly just a bunch of his songs that have caught my fancy, shiny gems scattered across a slew of his albums. This one here is the first of his albums that I’ve loved through and through.

Frank Turner cut his teeth in a few bands, most notably post-hardcore band Million Dead, before striking out in his own in 2005. Almost from the beginning, he has been backed up on the road and in the studio by The Sleeping Souls, made up of members of Dive Dive, whom Turner had befriended while out on tour. He has become known as a folk punk singer/songwriter, whose lyrics are informed, intelligent, often socio-political in nature, and so much fun to sing or shout along with. I’ve likened him to a younger Billy Bragg and the similarities go beyond those already mentioned and the English accent that he refuses to let go of while singing. He is also very passionate, usually angry sounding, which gives a bit more of an edge than Bragg, not that this is better or worse.

“Be more kind” is Frank Turner’s seventh studio long player and marks a bit of a shift for him. The title and really, the ethos for album was inspired by a line in the poem “Leçons des Ténèbres” by Clive James, which suggests that poet found out too late that he should’ve been more kind. As soon as I read about this, I searched out the poem myself because it’s an idea that I love. That of kindness in the face of all this madness we are facing. And though, Turner hesitates to call the album a political one, I would say it would almost be impossible for someone like him not to write about what he sees happening, especially as his own personal life has moved towards happiness.

I’m doing something a little different for my three picks for you and this album. Rather than describe the sound or lyrical content of the songs, I’m going to provide a chunk of lyric for each. Because primarily, I try to keep politics out of this blog (though it’s hard with artists like this) and secondly, I couldn’t possible say it better than Frank. Enjoy…

…And yeah… be more kind.

“1933”: “If I was of the greatest generation, I’d be pissed. Surveying the world that I built slipping back into this, I’d be screaming at my grandkids: ‘We already did this’. Be suspicious of simple answers. That shit’s for fascists and maybe teenagers. You can’t fix the world if all you have is a hammer. The first time it was a tragedy. The second time is a farce. Outside it’s 1933 so I’m hitting the bar.”

“Make America great again”: “Well I know I’m just an ignorant Englishman but I’d like to make America great again. So if you’ll forgive my accent and the cheek of it, here’s some suggestions from the special relationship. Let’s make America great again by making racists ashamed again. Let’s make compassion in fashion again. Let’s make America great again.”

“Be more kind”: “History’s been leaning on me lately. I can feel the future breathing down my neck. And all the things I thought were true when I was young, and you were too, turned out to be broken and I don’t know what comes next. In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind, be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind.”

Check back next Friday for album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”
4. Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”
3. Nap Eyes “I’m bad now”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best tunes of 1991: #9 Levellers “One way”

<< #10    |    #8 >>

As I’ve already mentioned a million times in posts for this series, I was an avid, perhaps even rabid watcher of MuchMusic’s CityLimits on Friday nights. On one of those nights, the host at the time, Simon Evans, introduced the next video up as one by the Levellers, likening them to The Wonder Stuff, and then, played “One way”. Hearing the comparison to my undisputed favourite band in those days, I got up to press the “Play” and “Record” buttons on the VCR to be able to watch the video again later. And so started my love affair with the Levellers.

On the back of that one video and the countless times I rewound and rewatched it, I went out to purchase “Levelling the land” in short order and that cassette spent a lot more time being shuffled between my Walkman and my bedroom stereo than it did in its case. Little did I know in those days before the internet that this was the group’s second album, that they had formed three years earlier, and that they had already amassed a cult following of ‘travellers’ that travelled (for want of a better verb) with them all across England to attend their shows. Their popularity grew further with this album and the next, 1993’s self-titled full-length, to the point that they were considered the biggest indie band in the country, culminating in a massive headline set at Glastonbury to an audience topping 300,000.

This was all unbeknownst to me, of course. For my part, I later purchased “Levellers” on CD and had procured tickets to see their Toronto stop on the tour in support of it but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps it was poor ticket sales or perhaps something else, but the show was cancelled and my $10 ticket refunded. I would finally get to see the band a number of years later, a decade after the release of “Levelling the land”, with my wife Victoria, whom I had, of course, indoctrinated to the album’s greatness. It was an acoustic show at Lee’s Palace, a mid-sized club venue and I particularly remember the guy behind me, probably from England, being so shocked at seeing the band play such a small venue, given how huge they were in their native country. That particular show has gone down as one of Victoria’s favourite shows, mostly due to the size, the intimate feel, the band’s energy, and the fact that she knew so many of the songs and could sing along with them.

“There’s only one way of life and that’s your own”

So “One way” was my introduction to the Levellers and to this day is likely still my favourite by the group. Does it sound like The Wonder Stuff? I guess… if I had to stretch things. It has that folk punk thing going for it, more punk than folk on this tune, especially when compared with other songs on the album. It has muscular bass and roaring guitars. It has funky drumming, popular around this time due to the acid house scene. It has screaming fiddles that play throughout, holding court, and pulling things all together. It has Mark Chadwick’s fresh-faced and jaded though hopeful vocals. It has the moral high ground and teen angst. And it has that anthemic chorus line that is filled with conviction and motivation.

Yeah, it’s great. Let’s rewind it and play it again.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Vinyl love: The Pogues “Rum sodomy & the lash”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Pogues
Album Title: Rum sodomy & the lash
Year released: 1985
Year reissued: 2015
Details: Black vinyl, 180 gram, Remastered

The skinny: The second album by highly influential celtic folk punk band The Pogues saw them hit their stride with Elvis Costello at the production helm. It arguably launched a whole subgenre of music: punk with flutes, mandolins, and fiddles.

Standout track: “Dirty old town”