Frank Turner returns with his fifth studio album of sing-along, English folk-punk. Though sticking to a tried and tested formula, Tape Deck Heart is Turner at his most disturbingly personal.
What’s it like?
Those accustomed to Turner’s ordinarily free-spirited self-righteousness might shudder at the prospect of a ‘breakup album’, but Tape Deck Heart proves to be emotionally engrossing and harrowing in equal measure. Turner laments an ageing body of scars and wounds that “don’t seem to fade”. Though emotionally and physically damaged, he refuses to yield to fatigue, the robustly defiant ‘Recovery’ a testament to his sanguine worldview.
Elsewhere, however, typically buoyant melodies disguise an undercurrent of sorrow, manifested most distressingly with the admission of childhood self-harm. His penchant for relatable, common-man lyrics continues, though the ‘deep’ subject matter occasionally produces cringe-inducing results (“God damn it Amy!”). Fans of the relentlessly infectious character of previous releases might have to persevere with tracks like the marvellously morose ‘Anymore’.
Breakup album though this certainly is, it does not come without its moments of typically Turner-esque euphoria. ‘Four Simple Words’, released for free at the end of 2012, is a joyously frivolous punk-rooted genre-hopper, with the singer indulging in some Freddie Mercury imitation. Turner has never failed to capture the essence of youth and ageing in such a simple yet accessible fashion, and Tape Deck Heart is no different.
Characteristically catchy choruses and middle eights abound, with ‘Polaroid Picture’, ‘The Fisher King Blues’ and ‘Plain Sailing Weather’ notable highlights in this vein. Returning finally to heartbreak, pounding percussion drives the album to its conclusion on ‘Broken Piano’, a dejected Turner finding solace “on the banks of the muddy Thames”. Desperate loneliness salvaged by the tranquillity of home comforts, this is an apt end to a thoroughly intriguing album.
What’s the tracklisting?
2. Losing Days
3. The Way I Tend To Be
4. Plain Sailing Weather
5. Good & Gone
6. Tell Tale Signs
7. Four Simple Words
8. Polaroid Picture
9. The Fisher King Blues
11. Oh Brother
12. Broken Piano
Can you listen to anything now?
What’s the final verdict?
After the career-high of England Keep My Bones, Tape Deck Heart comes as a bit of a shock. Sometimes lyrically distressing, Frank Turner can cut a lonely, depleted figure troubled by the end of a relationship, far from the impassioned, self-assured frontman we’ve become accustomed to. But the singer’s unwavering ability to melodically and lyrically entrance remains as strong as ever. This is an important chapter in the story of the man some might reasonably tip as one of this generation’s greatest songwriters.
Words by Simon Hiblen