Album Review: Poetry of the Deed – Frank Turner
(Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records)
By Guy Sangster Adams
The promo video for The Road, the rousing first single from Frank Turner’s third studio album, records his successful attempt to play 24 gigs across London in 24 hours and wryly underscores his relentless and extensive worldwide touring schedule over the last two years, supporting The Gaslight Anthem and The Offspring, his numerous festival appearances, and his headline tours which have seen him playing ever larger venues. Predominantly filmed performing in the homes of fans and friends, the video also highlights not only Turner’s amiability and accessibility but also the camaraderie and affection that his nigh on perpetual touring has brought him.
Though, judging from the lyrics of the first half of the album, the success and acclaim that both Turner’s talent and sheer hard work are quite rightly bringing him, are also bringing him criticism from those who feel that he has betrayed his ‘punk’ roots (he was originally the vocalist for hardcore band Million Dead) or negate his right to champion the common good. For me, Poetry of the Deed, as it would released on vinyl, divides into two sides; such is the accomplishment, strength, innovation, of tracks 7 through 13, and such is the rush that one gets listening to what is effectively side two, that it made me need to backtrack as to why the first half did not quite match. In part it is because the lyrical thrust is to angrily rebuff his critics by directly addressing their criticisms, which though that may be valid, doubters are so firmly blown out of the water by the songs of the second side which have a far broader and inventive lyrical sweep, that I cannot help thinking that there is far more mileage in silencing criticisms by, in the words of the title track, “putt[ing] our art where our mouth is.”
Sons of Liberty and The Road are glorious rebel marching songs, exhortations to deconstruct the unreconstructed, and unlock personal freedom by being open to the widest vistas of not only your own but the experiences of others, and not to give up; as the mandolin backed reprise of The Road has it, “I face the horizon everywhere I go, I face the horizon the horizon is my home.” Of course, depending on which way one looks the horizon can be as much where one’s come from as where one’s going, and the James Taylor-esque, Faithful Son is a beautiful and poignant reflection on living up to, or turning away from, the dreams and designs one’s parents put on one’s life, and in turn those that one puts on one’s own life; a song that is surely set to become a standard. Richard Divine is a real stylistic surprise – but one that definitely works – darkly gripping flash fiction, that joins the canon of third person songs; Eleanor Rigby, Arnold Layne, David Watts… Whilst the allusion filled Our Lady of the Campfires, and Journey of the Magi, which close the album equally underscore that when Turner’s passion, erudition, and musicality coalesce, it is poetry indeed, broadening all our horizons.