Frank Turner - Positive Songs for Negative People (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Frank Turner

Positive Songs for Negative People (2015)

Xtra Mile Recordings

Frank Turner sure has come a long way. The former Million Dead singer stepped away from hardcore a decade ago in favor of his acoustic guitar and singing rather than screaming. Time has seen Turner become more comfortable as a solo artist, and as a result his sound has become more fleshed out to incorporate more of a band dynamic. His sixth studio release, Positive Songs for Negative People, may only have Turner’s name on it, but this is the most complete band record of his career to date.

“By the waters of the Thames,” Turner softly begins the acoustic “The Angel Islington,” using the geography of his native land to anchor the song both in lyric and title. The song almost serves more as an introduction than a song on its own, making the bombast of “Get Better” all that more, well, bombastic. A pounding drumbeat and electric guitars punctuate the chorus with Turner screaming by song’s end, “We can get better / Because we’re not dead yet.” The album’s first single, “The Next Storm,” follows a similar pattern, with shouts of “Rejoice!” punctuating the song. A joyous ode to overcoming difficulties and facing the world, the song is a definite highlight.

Much was made pre-release that Positive Songs for Negative People would be a louder, more rocking affair. However, the middle part of the album will feel instantly recognizable to fans of Turner’s previous work. “The Opening Act of Spring” is an acoustically based song, backed by a shuffling beat, and would have been just as at home on 2007’s Sleep is for the Week. “Mittens” could just have easily been on 2013’s Tape Deck Heart (the ending of the song is very reminiscent of “Polaroid Picture” from that album, with the repeated backing sing-along sounding very similar.).

“Out of Breath” picks up the pace considerably, a furious affair that lives up to its title, leading perfectly into the equally rollicking “Demons,” with its refrain of “Goddamn it’s great to be alive.” Loud rock suits Turner and his backing band The Sleeping Souls well, with drums and guitar dominating the album’s overall sound.

The album’s closer, “Song for Josh,” turns the volume way down, back to Turner and his trusty acoustic. The song, recorded live at the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C., is a tribute to the former head of security at the legendary venue, who passed away in 2013. It is a slow, heartbreaking eulogy, with Turner singing at the beginning, “Why didn’t you call? / My phone’s always on / Why didn’t you call / Before you got gone?” The positively loud roar at the end of the song from the assembled 9:30 crowd adds to the power of the song, both healing and cathartic.

It’s not like Frank Turner doesn’t have a bit of a reputation to live up to. Spending the better part of the last decade being punk’s troubadour certainly brings its share of expectations. Get ready fans, because those expectations may not exactly be lived up to the way you had hoped. You just may, however, find that your expectations were wrong in the first place. That’s right, Positive Songs for Negative People is more than worth your time.