I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that Frank Turner is almost at the point where he needs no introduction – after selling out Wembley in 2012 and releasing his critically acclaimed Tape Deck Heart, which peaked at second place in the UK charts, just over a year later, the Wessex boy is back with his sixth studio release, Positive Songs For Negative People. It might have only been eight years since his debut album, Sleep Is For The Week, was released, but the punk-folk singer/songwriter is already reflecting back to it; “When a band makes a debut record, there’s a freshness and excitement to it that bands often lose as time goes by,” he says. “I wanted to try and make a record with that young, exciting feel.”
This is a train of thought that’s ever present in the album – you need look no further than the tennis metaphor lyricism of two and a half minute blast Love Forty Down or the heartbreaking heart-on-sleeve nature of closing Song For Josh to find ties with Frank’s earliest work. And as the title might suggest, the record is one filled with swinging enthusiasm, with gritty determination and against-odds-optimism powering through Get Better, a track which seems like a rough and tumbled cousin of Recovery (Tape Deck Heart‘s first single). This previous single had such a buoyant tempo you’d think it would’ve suited Positive Songs, whilst there’s more than a hint of melancholy to story-telling lead Mittens.
After the musician and his band, The Sleeping Souls, perfected the tracks in an Oxforshire based rehearsal room, they headed to Nashville with producer Butch Walker for an intense nine-day recording session, leaving a very live influence on the album, wanting to capture the nature of their gigs as best the could. “Pretty much all of it is live. The end result is everything I wanted it to be,” he says. Gang vocals in Glorious You, a bass driven, emancipating, chant with your friends anthem, and the brazen enthusiasm in the hooks of Josephine signal towards this fresh faced sound, let alone the live recording of Song For Josh at Washington’s 9.30 Club.
Out Of Breath picks up the weight of the full band, sounding strikingly similar to Ghouls’ London’s Burning – a song Frank has previously championed – and although penultimate Silent Key has an opening that’s all but straining on the first listen, he tells of 1986’s Challenger disaster with an “I’m alive” ending, and combined with the addition of Esmé Patterson’s vocals this makes my personal favourite off the record.
Elsewhere, opening The Angel Islington completes a rough trilogy as tribute to North London, begun on Tape Deck Heart with Fisher King Blues and Broken Piano, whilst first single to be released off the record, The Next Storm, punches with the bold enthusiasm that the album is built on. Closer to the songwriter-supported-by-band style of his last album, The Opening Act of Spring completes the album alongside bittersweet Demons, another number to dabble in gang vocals.
Frank has described Positive Songs as “my definitive statement, a summation of the first five records”, and there’s no trouble seeing how this is true; it offers little that sees the singer/songwriter push himself beyond what he’s written before, whilst delving into the archives to pull out the best of his work and revamp it.
You can check out the video for The Next Storm below.