Frank Turner, man. Frank Turner, like Josh Ritter, wrote a break-up album. It can’t not be a breakup album, when it starts off with the upbeat and playful “Recovery”, a song whose sound is disingenuous, or maybe I mean totally true, to its content. It’s about, well, about recovering — from a broken heart, from the things we use to recover from a broken heart. Recovering from recovery. (I have now typed the word “Recovery” so many times that it has ceased to be in English for me.) There’s a great syncopation to Turner’s songwriting, always, and it’s particularly clear in “Recovery”:
so i’ve been pounding on the floors and i’ve been crawling up the walls
and i’ve been dipping in my darkness for seritonin boosters, cider, and some kind of smelling salts
First off, we’ve all been there. And second, to cram that all in two lines, that’s the sort of clever, out of the box break-up songs that Turner has crafted on this record.
“Losing Days” is a break-up song to Turner’s youth, and its mandolin-strewn melody line really resonated with me, and Turner’s statement that he didn’t think he’d make it to see 25. As we get older, there’s a bit left in us from Turner’s rollicking chorus of “Photosynthesis” (i won’t sit down, i won’t shut up, and most of all i will not grow up) but there might be more of us that’s bruised and battered and trying to figure out how to go, when our dreams have scattered a little bit (greatness slips on by) and all we’re left with is what we’ve left behind:
but these days i’m collecting scars that don’t seem to fade
cuts and bruises that don’t seem to go away
The pair of those songs sets the tone for the rest of the record, really, love and aging, and the fears that go along with both. I’m trying to resist the urge to just blockquote Turner’s lyrics all over the place, because he’s never lacked for lines that resonate with universality, but this album is just packed with human feelings, most of them scary and enormous, even in his more indie pop offerings like “The Way I Tend To Be” and “Polaroid Picture”. “Good & Gone” is a folkier lament for the things we’ve forgotten about needing, or wanting; “Tell Tale Signs” is an eerie and stark accusation addressed to “Amy” of “I Am Disappeared”, who’s still leaving clothes on Turner’s bedroom floor, disappearing, and Turner says that he’s too old for that now, or maybe he means he’s just too tired.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Frank Turner record if there wasn’t a anthem to rock and roll and the way it saves our lives; I could quote all of the furious, frenzied, fierce “Four Simple Words” here, but I’ll spare you all of them: it’s the kind of showstopping singalong that Turner is best at — he follows it closely with “The Fisher King Blues”, which is similarly broad and anthemic, but where “Four Simple Words” is straightforward, “The Fisher King Blues” is subtle, complex, a grown up stomp your feet stand up for yourself song that shows the way Turner’s songwriting is growing, too.
As the record closes out, Turner takes on the alternative culture he stands as a role model for, raising it up for praise in the deluxe edition tracks: “We Shall Not Overcome” and “Tattoos”, the latter of which made me laugh out loud the first time I listened to it:
some people have none, some have one that they’re ashamed of
most people think that we’re fools, some people don’t get it
and some people don’t care, and some of us, we have tattoos
if we had the luck to live our lives a second time through,
we’d be sure to get the same tattoos
And that, that song, more than anything on the album, though “Tell Tale Signs” makes the spot under my breastbone ache with loss and “Four Simple Words” almost got me a speeding ticket, is my favorite, because it’s tongue-in-cheek and totally honest all at once, it’s exactly everything that Turner stands for, and what I look to his music to stand for for me.