Singer-songwriters are a funny bunch. A lot of the time, you get the feeling that if they had made a few more friends at school, they'd probably be in a proper band. But then Frank Turner is quite the opposite, previously being the frontman of successful British underground band Million Dead and after a messy break-up, launched himself up as a solo folk artist. Love, Ire and Song is his second full-length in his solo and cutting to the point - it is brilliant. But that isn't surprising, his first album Sleep Is for the Weak was one of the best singer-songwriter releases I have ever had the joy to listen to. And this builds on it and takes it up to another level.
Let's begin at the beginning, we're lovers and we're losers /These are the opening lines of Love, Ire and Song and the album runs brilliantly, through to "Reasons Not to be an Idiot," "'Photosynthesis" and "Substitute" and keeps going. Coming from London, the album and Turner sounds very British, but the rawness yet catchy-as-fuck nature of this record is really what makes it stand out. Furthermore, Turner's lyrics are superb and at times inspiring. I am tempted to quote a whole string of superb lyrics, but it wouldn't do them justice. ( don't just take my word for it, have a quick listen on his MySpace) The lyrics are honest and open and usually revolve around the themes of girls, growing-up, punk protest and politics and friends. The title track is a fantastic punk anthem delivered in classic folk style, a call to arms to everyone who believes that something in the world needs to change and to never abandon your beliefs. It's a song that is inspirational in how it sounds and what it says and like most of this album, easy to relate to.
We're heroes and we're pioneers, we're beggars and we're choosers /
Skirting round the edges of the ideal demographic /
We're almost on the guest list, but we're always stuck in traffic
"Long Live the Queen" takes the opposite approach; an intensely personal song about the death of a friend. But you won't catch a second of negativity in it's hauntingly brilliant three minutes and 27 seconds. It's a celebration of life and memory and a greatly uplifting song, set at an almost completely contradictory high tempo. Indeed, much of this album is uplifting despite its often quite negative focus in the lyrics; In fact, Turner spins and ties together contradictory emotions and sounds throughout this album, to brilliant effect.
The album also has plenty of variety; something usually heavily lacking in similar solo releases. Whilst some tracks take the purist approach of man and acoustic guitar, "Impefect Tense" sees the use of a full band and two electric guitars and later tracks use a whole host of different percussion, keys and piano, and some brilliant backing vocals. It's not a repeating formula, its always different and always incredibly easy to listen to.
The downside is that the experimentation doesn't always work. The last two tracks die badly, the energy drains and the final piano-led track "Jet Lag" is poor compared to the rest. But on the whole, this album is one which can be listened to over and over again, with a number of instant classics and a number of tracks which take longer to get into, such as the beautiful "To Take You Home." I cannot recommend this enough, if you have ever enjoyed the work of a singer-songwriter, pick this up and Frank Turner will become one of your favourite artists of the year.