Frank Turner - Positive Songs For Negative People

By Jennifer Quinlin

Released Friday August 7th, 2015 - Xtra Mile Recordings

Existing, as I do, as a previously romantic optimist, battered into submission by the high speed setting on the Blender of Life, one thing guaranteed to set me on the defensive is the word "positive". It alarms me almost as much as "perky". The thought of rainbow-coloured unicorns and fluffy sentiment being forced upon me makes me want to run for cover.

It was with this mild sense of terror that I sat down to listen to Frank Turner's new offering, studio album number six, 'Positive Songs for Negative People'. The album is a follow-up to 2013's 'Tape Deck Heart', an unapologetically raw break-up album.

The album opens with the soft acoustic, 'The Angel Islington'. It's a gentle wake-up, and reintroduction to Turner's struggle with having not been himself of late. Here is the tone being set for the album - one of starting again, picking yourself up, and defying all the obstacles thrown into your path.
The gentle reverie doesn't last long as 'Get Better' bursts forth with trademark Turner ferocity. This conjures images of him hauling himself to his full height and facing down the world. The message is clear - "we can get better, because we're not dead yet". Following on straight after is the rollickingly-good "The Next Storm". I was fortunate enough to have my first hearing of this track during one of the recent gigs in Melbourne, and it's a cracker. Turner is resolute, declaring his intent to confront the next shit-storm, whatever it may be, head-on.

'Opening Act of Spring' borders about as close to perky as I dare venture. A glorious cross between a drinking song and an Irish jig, complete with sing-along or be damned harmonies, and it's contagious. Next up is'Glorious You' - a track I've been incapable of not listening to since I first heard it. If I didn't know better, I'd swear Mr. Turner had been observing my own disastrous effort at life, and it has lyrics which made me laugh out loud. It's full of hope and understanding, and I have adopted this as my own personal anthem.

'Mittens' tells of ignored love songs, postcards never reciprocated, and all the uncomfortable realisations of a painfully unbalanced love affair. "We used to fit like mittens, but never like gloves"- encased, but not embraced, perhaps. It's a heartbreaker. Never fear, however, as "Out of Breath" soon kicks you squarely in the teeth. An exhausting, powerful track - just what Turner does best.

'Demons' is full of monstrous drums and pulsating bass, with plenty of opportunity to scream "god damn, it's great to be alive!" at regular intervals. Impossible not to dance to this track, and it's my pick as the most uplifting song on the album. This is a song that would be enormous fun to experience live.

'Josephine' is a name which came to Turner in his sleep. This track calls on the elusive, mysterious Josephine to manifest. It contains some genius lyrics, with the best of those being the stellar "you can come as a car crash, I'll go as James Dean".

'Love Forty Down' sees Turner pondering his fourth decade and all that may hold. The tennis analogy seems a misfit for a punk/folk singer, but it works. Something of an internal monologue mixed with a motivational speech, willing himself to get it together and turn it all around.

'Silent Key' is about the demise of teacher Christa McAuliffe in the catastrophic failed Space Shuttle Challenger mission in 1986. Many of us old enough to have seen it all unfold live have it etched into our memories, and the thought, as per this song, that she didn't die during the explosion, rather survived in the crew capsule as it fell to earth, is a mortifying one.

Final song on the album is 'Song for Josh'. Written as a tribute to Josh Burdette, who died in September 2013 from an apparent suicide, it's agonisingly beautiful, and it made me weep for so many reasons. Recorded live, this is a stunning homage to Turner's friend, and a stark reminder of the endless ripples left in so many lives when someone takes their own life.

Turner is more than ably supported by his exceptional touring/studio band, The Sleeping Souls. They are so good together it's easy to forget that Frank Turner is primarily a solo artist, and a damn fine one at that. Do yourself a favour and get the deluxe edition of this album, and treat yourself to the acoustic versions.

This is a thoughtful, articulate, and entertaining album. There's something for everyone, and everything for some. If a song engages me and elicits a reaction then it has done its job, and this album is full of songs that do just that. I feel uplifted, but there's no nasty aftertaste of sugary insincerity, and for now the romantic optimist in me has resurfaced.