An in-depth review of Frank Turner’s sixth studio album, Positive Songs for Negative People.
This Friday, 7th August, will be an exciting day for singer songwriter Frank Turner and his legions of fans as he releases his sixth studio album, Positive Songs for Negative People. Turner’s latest musical offering following directly on from Tape Deck Heart, ultimately a break up album, to the theme of recovery.
Long before he released the album’s singles Get Better, Next Storm, Mittens and Glorious You, Turner was telling the press and his fans that his next album was one about picking yourself up when you’re down, a defiant desire to live life to the full. A listen to the record very much fulfills that ethos. Despite a start featuring Angel of Islington, a song slightly out of sync musically and artistically with the rest of the album, Nigel Powell’s drums ring hard and loud throughout the album, with Frank Turner even playing some electric guitar himself.
The album is interestingly constructed, an order which grows on you after a couple of plays. Both emotionally and in terms of quality, the album reaches a crescendo towards the end, with Silent Key and Song for Josh being both musically brilliant and emotionally beautiful. However, stylistically, the album reaches a hard rock crescendo towards the middle with the ballad Mittens, Glorious You and punk anthem Josephine being the most musically meaty. The majority of the songs on the album hold their own and all fit the structure, yet a couple of plays helps to let you appreciate the construction of Positive Songs for Negative People.
The track order is of particular importance if you decide to marathon all six of Turner’s studio albums. Each new album has brought a slightly new and slightly evolved style – Positive Songs is no different. The album has a rockier and fuller sound than Tape Deck Heart, one which requires some kind of transition. This change comes in the form of The Angel Islington, a song which I felt struggled on its own, but is vital to the bigger picture. The evolution of styles between Tape Deck Heart and Positive Songs is noticeable and this mellow, personal track acts as a sorbet to help clean the musical palette.
It follows the Fisher King who featured towards the end of Tape Deck Heart despairingly playing a broken piano. However, in keeping with the album’s positive feeling, Turner soulfully sings that he “resolves to start again”.
Little needs to be said about the following two tracks: Get Better and The Next Storm. Both are positive, loud, defiant songs, tailored to be played to enthusiastic festival fans. These two songs are perhaps the most obvious on the album, they do what they say on the tin, but they do it well and they do do it in style. Both are currently out as singles.
The Opening Act Of Spring is also a nice number, although perhaps a little weak compared to what it follows and introduces. Musically it is lovely, upbeat and and comparatively accoustic, while the lyrics are hit or miss. Some are obvious and slightly cheap rhymes, while other lines take you totally by surprise and really make you smile in a way Turner has always managed with his clever use of language.
Both Glorious You and Mittens capture the same positive, defiant rock of Get Better to excellent effect. While Glorious You is perhaps slightly catchier and more obviously positive, both are undoubtedly fantastic ballads and top tracks on a beautiful album.
To my mind, Out of Breath interrupts what would be a wonderful stream of four upbeat punk anthems. The song is very catchy and ultimately a good piece, yet it feels wrong in a way which is hard to place. It may be the fact that it sounds as if the words are an after thought; a tune written on its own, with lyrics added for good measure in a hurry.
Demons and Josephine come in the same full blooded category as some of my other favourites on the album. They feature the same heavy guitar and perfect lyrics, nothing forced here. Josephine is especially well done, based on one of Turner’s dreams and exploring the “only two famous Josephines in history” as Turner put it at a gig in the US.
Love Forty Down is a track which captures much of Turner’s previous work, particularly reminiscent of his fifth album, Tape Deck Heart. It is both lyrically and musically accomplished, however, it is forgettable compared to some of the pieces it shares an album with.
The last two tracks, Silent Key and Song for Josh, cover death. The former chillingly paints the picture of the historical death of an astronaut and the latter the suicide of one of Turner’s friends. Musically Silent Key is the best track on the album hands down, a song featuring a regular and controlled melody that allows the words to hold their own. The female voice adds an unsettling realism to the track, using the same strong counter harmonies that can be heard in Fields of June, which Turner guested on.
Song for Josh, recorded live at the venue that Turner’s friend worked, is a perfect and emotional way to end the album. To say more would be to undermine the independence of a beautiful and powerful piece.
Positive Songs for Negative People is an absolute musical triumph. It shows the best of Turner’s past in his punk experience, combined with the man’s fantastic lyrical talent. The album is one which should stand the test of time in set lists, with multiple tracks sure to feature during the tours for Frank Turner’s seventh, eighth, ninth and I’m sure tenth albums. The music really takes the essence of Frank Turner and pushes it further than before in a gloriously mellow, yet uplifting way.
Positive Songs for Negative People will be available from Friday 7th August in music shops and online, several singles are already available with album pre-order. Get Better and The Next Storm both have music videos available to watch on Frank Turner’s YouTube channel.