Music. It’s everywhere, but is it any good? In this occasional series I take on the weeks most interesting singles, or sometimes I just don’t bother because I am lazy. A bunch of big releases roused me from my breakfast food induced slumber this time out. Starting with…
‘I think breaking down the barrier between musicians and everyone else is important…’
After Frank Turner agreed to have a face to face interview with me for Doncopolitan, I was unbelievably heartbroken that work commitments scuppered that opportunity. However, being the true gentleman that he is, Frank agreed to answer any questions I wanted to email over to him. Here are the results:
To quote Frank Turner, ‘Let’s begin at the beginning’. What is the point of music? What is its purpose? You might want to make yourself comfortable for this one…
Music is universal. There are, however, nuances and details that attract different people to different aspects of the art of song. Some people are drawn to the music themselves whilst others are infatuated by lyrical proficiency. Some like minimal sonic soundscapes whereas others just want to dance. I’d like to think that all those elements have influenced my musical tastes over the years. All of this pales into insignificance when compared to the most fundamental reason for enjoying music however. Do they fucking mean it?
I first saw Frank Turner supporting The Gaslight Anthem at Nottingham Rock City back in March 2009. I had gone to see Gaslight but I left wowed by both Frank Turner’s songs and the incredible crowd reaction to Worse Things Happen At Sea and set closer The Ballad of Me and My Friends. From there I became a bit Frank obsessed buying both his albums and playing them to death. I became that guy who bores people at parties about an artist they have never heard of, insisting they listen to Photosynthesis or Reasons To Not Be An Idiot.
Fast forward a few years to 2012 and Frank is playing to thousands of people at Wembley Stadium. Whilst I still liked the stuff he was putting out his music didn’t feel like it was ‘mine’ any more. There is always a bit of a crisis of faith when your favourite underground act goes mainstream and I never really loved his music in the same way after that…
This brings us to November 19th 2015 and Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Sheffield Academy. A mate had asked me if I fancied it and I hadn’t seen Frank live for a good few years so went for it. Frank and his band bounded on stage about 8:45 and went straight into the triumphant call to arms Eulogy before going into The Next Storm – for me the best song from latest album Positive Songs for Negative People. Breathless renditions of Try This At Home and Out of Breath were delivered at break neck speeds before the first big sing along of the night for The Road and Peggy Sang The Blues. As Frank let the crowd sing the closing refrain from The Road I remembered the slavish devotion that I had seen back at Nottingham Rock City in 2009.
It had been a strong start but there was a bit of a lull after that with Losing Days, new single Josephine and a rocked up version Long Live The Queen not really doing it for me. At this point the nagging disconnection from what Frank Turner has become once again hit home but the enthusiastic crowd still lapped it up.
The tide started to turn when The Sleeping Souls went for a break leaving Frank to perform uniformly brilliant solo acoustic versions of The Ballad of Me and My Friends, The Way I Tend To Be and St. Christopher Is Coming Home, the latter of which was dedicated to Nick Alexander who was killed in the Paris attacks.
Part of Frank Turner’s appeal is the fact he has always seemed different to other ‘rock stars’. As he himself so succinctly puts it ‘there’s no such thing as rock stars there’s just people who play music, and some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks’. Turner falls squarely into the former camp so when he starts talking about the Paris attacks and Nick Alexander it comes across as heartfelt and fucking relevant rather than preachy or contrived. No matter what you think of Frank Turner he fucking means it.
From there it was hit after hit. The Sleeping Souls returned for a victorious run through of Wessex Boy, Photosynthesis made the Sheffield crowd go fucking nuts and Glory Hallelujah came across much better live than it does on record.
I have seen Frank Turner six times but the rendition of Reasons Not To Be An Idiot at Sheffield Academy is by far the best I have witnessed and again the audience goes bonkers with mass crowd surfing – Frank himself enters the crowd on numerous occasions. The hit parade is concluded with Recovery and Plain Sailing Weather before the band leave the stage before the encore.
One thing that is striking is that newer songs such as Mittens and the afore mentioned Plain Sailing Weather are met with the same level of devotion as anything off the first two albums with the crowd singing back every word to every song.
When Frank comes back out for the encore he talks about his friend Josh who tragically killed himself and it is moments like this along with bringing out a roadie to take the crowd through star jumps and pointing out the flag that has been passed between fans at every date on this tour that I realize that it doesn’t matter if Frank Turner’s music is ‘mine’ any more. Whether he is playing to 20 or 2000 Frank Turner embodies why music means so much to people and why whole communities are based around a few folks playing guitar and singing the blues.
The rest of the encore is almost akin to a religious experience with I Knew Prufrock…, I Still Believe and Four Simple Words all awe inspiring enough to be set closers for 99% of other bands out there.
While Four Simple Words is just such fucking fun it is I Still Believe that really sums the evening up…
‘Who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all’
Consider Sheffield Academy saved.
10. Blur – Go Out
Sometimes when a beloved band reforms it can be damage control for fans who just don’t want to see a legacy tarnished. This was probably never going to be an issue for Blur as during their hiatus Graham Coxon has released a string of critically acclaimed solo albums whilst Damon Albarn has been drawing praise for his work with the Gorillaz as well as a million other projects. I understand Alex James has made some damn fine cheese in that time also.
Go Out allayed any fears that fans may have had about quality control and is probably Blur’s best single since Coffee & TV back in 1999. Alex James sleazy bass line is the perfect accompaniment to Albarn’s sneering lyrics.
For fans of: Gorillaz, post The Great Escape Blur, Radiohead.
9. Circa Waves – Lost It
It’s over 15 years since the likes of The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys burst on to the indie scene so now we are starting to see the fruits of their labours with Circa Waves. Effortlessly combining The Strokes ear for a melody with Turner’s lovelorn lyrics, Liverpool’s Circa Waves released one of the best albums of 2015 with Young Chasers.
T-Shirt Weather might be more catchy but Lost It is the best moment on Young Chasers, sounding like it has been lifted directly from The Strokes masterpiece Room on Fire.
For fans of: Arctic Monkeys, Strokes, Courteeners
8. Cribs – An Ivory Hand
Following the demise of Doves and the disappointment of the last couple of Muse albums, The Cribs alongside the Arctic Monkeys, Courteeners and Kasabian have established themselves as one of the most beloved British bands. Still fiercely flying the independent flag, The Cribs latest album For All My Sisters is a return to form after three years away.
For All My Sisters was produced with Weezer producer Rik Ocasek and that is never more evident than on An Ivory Hand. The first single from the album is a sunny slice of sweet summer rock and sounds like it could have been penned by Rivers Cuomo circa 2001 whilst still retaining the trademark Cribs sound.
For fans of: Weezer, Teenage Fanclub, Pixies
7. Frank Turner – The Next Storm
Frank has become a bit ubiquitous in recent years but when he is still releasing gems like The Next Storm it doesn’t matter. If 2013’s Tape Deck Heart was the night in drinking gin soaked with tears, than this year’s follow up Positive Songs for Negative People is the tentative first date on the road to repairing a broken heart.
The Next Storm channels Frank Turner’s previous hit Reasons Not To Be An Idiot with its shout along chorus of ‘I don’t wanna spend the whole of my life inside’. Frank Turner has come a very long way in a relatively short space of time but it is songs like this that keep him relevant.
For fans of: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Gaslight Anthem
6. Tame Impala – Let It Happen
Critical darlings Tame Impala had the unenviable task of following up 2012’s smash album Lonerism and in Currents they have surpassed all expectations, producing an album that will feature on many an end of year list.
Opening the album is Let It Happen, a hooky and haunting melody that gets under your skin, in your ears and lodged in your brain for days afterwards. It might just be their finest song to date.
For fans of: Temples, Ty Segall, Pink Floyd
5. The Wonder Years – A Song For Ernest Hemingway
In 2013 Pennsylvania’s The Wonder Years released The Greatest Generation, by far the best emo album of the last ten years, but still mainstream success eluded them. Rather than dwell on this they have regrouped and come back strong with No Closer To Heaven.
A Song For Ernest Hemingway is perhaps their most accessible work to date whilst still singing of a black December and Hemingway’s shotgun.
For fans of: Alkaline Trio, Jimmy Eat World, Jawbreaker, Charles Bukowski
4. Modest Mouse – The Ground Walks, With Time In a Box
While there is nothing on new album Strangers to Ourselves to rival the masterpiece that is Float On it is probably Modest Mouse’s most consistent and rewarding album. After Black Keys and Shins recent massive success it felt like this could be the year that Modest Mouse finally break the mainstream. It is a good thing for fans of the Washington misfits however that they remain one of the biggest cult bands in the world.
The Ground Walks, With Time In a Box is a frantic mess that must be a lot of fun live. It was hard to pick just one song from Strangers to Ourselves, such is the overall quality of the album.
For fans of: Tom Waits, White Stripes, QOTSA
3. Vaccines – Handsome/Dream Lover
It is literally impossible to separate two such disparate but equally brilliant songs so they are both included. Handsome was an unexpected return to the breathless garage rock of the Vaccines second album whilst Dream Lover is indicative of their new direction. Dream Lover also has the most ridiculously catchy guitar riff of 2015. Vintage Vaccines.
For fans of: The Stooges, Talking Heads, Black Keys
2. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best
Courtney Barnett burst out of the Aussie music scene with a couple of EP’s in 2014 but nobody could foresee how good her début album would be.
Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year and Pedestrian at Best is one of the best songs of this or any other year.
Barnett’s rambling lyrics twist and turn around the insistent melody and the chorus has had crowds going crazy all over Europe.
For fans of: Honeyblood, Best Coast, Kurt Vile
1. Spector – All The Sad Young Men
Spector’s brilliant début album had the feel of one album wonder about it, indeed it was titled Enjoy It While It Lasts. Frontman Fred Macpherson had other ideas however and while changing the musical direction of the band from the laddy singalongs of the 90’s to the synth heavy heartbreak of the 80’s was a risk, it is a risk that has dragged Spector to a new level.
All The Sad Young Men is an anthem for beach holidays and introspective lonerism alike. The simple but heartfelt lyrics are Macpherson’s trademark and they have never been more effective than with All The Sad Young Man. The fact that the London band are already closing their live sets with it is an indication of how much fans have taken the song to their hearts.
For fans of: The Wombats, Oasis, The Enemy
- Genghar – She’s A Witch
- Menace Beach – Ratworld
- New Order – Superheated
- FFS – Things I Wont Get
- Drenge – We Can Do What We Want