For Fans Of
Honesty can go a really long way in music. Just look at The Wonder Years, La Dispute, and a host of other bands who bear a lot for the world to see. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls are one of those bands whose music is the microscope for their lives. The two parties most recent effort, ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’ (a title that sums up my life way more than it should), is a collection of 12 songs that deal heavily with love, loss, recovery, and essentially positivity being bred out of negativity. You know, all of the usual topics for someone like Turner.
To sum up the English singer’s sixth record stylistically, just think what an album would sound like if you combined the catchy punk/DIY ideals of Dropkick Murphys, with the rock n’ roll spirit and emphasis on choruses of acts like Bon Jovi, all wrapped up with the delivery of an unashamedly honest folk-rock style of Bob Dylan. It’s really nothing all that new for Turner and his backing band’s music, but he knows it, the band knows it, and the fans know it too. What carries the songs is, and has always been, his voice and his open-diary style of lyric writing.
Song-wise, the album is one of the singer/guitarist’s best, with the exception of ‘England Keep My Bones‘. The songs and lyrics still retain those sprinkles of sadness and grit, but the positivity shines through. No songs show this more than the short and snappy pick-me-up of ‘Get Better’ and the mid-tempo, uplifting defiance of ‘The Next Storm’. Both of these contrast strongly with the melancholic loss behind the tragic album closer ‘Song For Josh’, written about a close friend of Turner’s who sadly killed himself. This song is the negative element of the album, and in a way of life too, that there are happy moments laced with moments we’d much rather forget. The fact that this song was recorded live makes it all the more powerful, and it will definitely strike a strong chord with many listeners, and can’t be recommended enough.
One of the record’s biggest standouts, surely not just for this reviewer, is the heartfelt slow-burner, ‘Mittens’, which is a grand example of how Turner and his band of merry men craft simple, yet beautiful tunes. Plus, the lines of ‘I wrote you love songs/you never fell in love. We always fitted like mittens/but never like gloves’ really sums up the heartache and relationship woes of Turner’s past, and shows a more bittersweet reflection, instead of the moving-forward hopes of say, ‘The Next Storm’.
At the end of the day though, this record isn’t perfect, but it is yet another solid record from Turner and his fellow white-shirt buddies. Yes, it’s a very simple record and is easy listening from start to finish, but sometimes simple and easy is perfectly fine and necessary.
‘Positive Songs For Negative People’ is just that: a polished, catchy and upbeat album filled with real honesty and hope, despite prior experiences of loss and heartache. When the songs are flowing from the big, catchy gospel-sounding rock hits to shorter bursts of energy, or moving through the powerful dynamic folk-rock territory, the blend of these two never lapses. While we may never get the Million Dead reunion so many want, it’s fine to know that after years on, Frank Turner can still twist and pull at our heart strings more than most others could ever hope.
1. The Angel Islington
2. Get Better
3. The Next Storm
4. The Opening Act Of Spring
5. Glorious You
7. Out Of Breath
10. Love Forty Down
11. Silent Key
12. Song For Josh