Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Frank Turner

Tape Deck Heart (2013)


Frank Turner records fall into one of two categories; solid front-to-back albums full of memorable sing-alongs and sharp-witted songwriting (2008's career high-point Love Ire & Song, 2011's England Keep My Bones) or a few incredible singles surrounded by, for lack of a more polite word, filler (2009's Poetry of the Deed.) Unfortunately, Tape Deck Heart, the prolific British singer-songwriter's latest offering leans slightly more to the latter category. There's nothing here that is overtly unenjoyable, but some songs are noticeably better than others.

First the good; album opener and first single "Recovery" is a great way to kick things off. It's a classic Frank Turner song in that it manages to be lyrically verbose and immensely catchy at the same time. With lyrics like "On the first night you met you said ‘Well, Darling. Let's make a deal. If anybody ever asks us let's just tell them that we met in jail.'" It possesses the signature wit that adorns most of Turner's lyrics and makes the song's message about addiction more palatable than it otherwise would be.

"Plain Sailing Weather" is another great track. It is quite profane lyrically, but still catchy enough to make it a potential radio hit. Turner loves his nautical references as a metaphor for breakups, dating back to "Worse Things Happen at Sea," and this song is just as powerful as that fan-favorite, albeit in a different way. Turner's band The Sleeping Souls (Matt Nasir, Nigel Powell, Tarrant Anderson and Ben Lloyd) really shine here.

As for the not so good; tracks like the too-slow "Tell-Tale Signs" and "Four Simple Words," even with its alarming drum break and tempo increase midway through are really just kind of there, and have none of the spark of past glories like "Photosynthesis" that really made listeners stand up and take notice.

It just wouldn't be a Frank Turner album without a plethora of bonus tracks, and this time around some of them are better than the tunes that actually made the proper album. "Time Machine" is an urgent and immediate punk-rock-by-way-of-Springsteen that has an energy not found on a lot of the slower tunes. "Tattoos" features just Turner and an acoustic guitar but it's very lively nonetheless.

With bands like Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers making huge waves, and a major label behind him, if there were ever a time for Frank Turner to really hit it big in the States, it's now. Unfortunately, Tape Deck Heart is not his strongest offering as a whole, but it features a number of fantastic tracks that could conceivably be "hits" and will surely become live staples. While he can and has done better and it could benefit from losing a few tracks, it's a better record than most of the "Americana" bands on the airwaves have made, and a strong showing overall.