Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart
Record Label: Interscope Records / Xtra Mile Recordings
Release Date: April 22, 2013
"It was a wonderful life when we were together, and now I’ve fucked up every little god damn thing." - Plain Sailing Weather
Frank Turner has won the adoration of his fans by delivering bluntly truthful, accessible and quotable lyricism alongside simple songwriting. There isn’t anything to delve into on a Frank Turner record further than his expectedly brilliant storytelling, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s exactly what we’re here for.
Tape Deck Heart sees Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, expanding upon their specialties and contributing a record that offers both upbeat tracks with punk backbones and slower numbers that often feature Turner accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar.
The end result includes multiple feel-good tracks that will make their way onto summer playlists - lead single “Recovery” and following focus tracks “The Way I Tend To Be” and “Plain Sailing Weather” define what so many people yearn for in Turner’s music. These tracks can match up with the best of Turner’s growing back catalog, but Tape Deck Heart isn’t a top-loaded record; rather, it stands out for its remarkable consistency.
"Somebody told me that music with guitars was going out of fashion and I had to laugh / This shit wasn’t fashionable when I fell in love / If the hipsters move on, why should I give a fuck?" - Four Simple Words
Turner pairs songs together in this tracklisting like an art. “Tell Tale Signs” is one of the slowest numbers, an emotive and intimate song about being used, being hurt and covering scars with tattoos. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the next track, “Four Simple Words,” which starts slow but explodes into a rocking and rolling rhythm, praising the purest reasons for falling in love with music. Turner uses the refrain of “I want to dance” while weaving anecdotes about his own love affair with punk rock.
A big advantage of Turner’s simple songwriting is that the man is nothing short of a machine. Accompanying Tape Deck Heart’s 12-song tracklisting is essentially another half of a record in the form of bonus songs. Hell, in one of those tracks - “Cowboy Chords” - Turner admits to his own “simple song” tendencies.
You can call these “bonuses” if you want, but these songs blend in just fine with the album’s core runtime. Eighteen songs is a lot to digest, but many fan favorites will come out of this additional music. The toe-tapping “We Shall Not Overcome” feels like it could have been the leadoff single as easily as “Recovery” was, with Turner at his most quotable in the hand-clapping chorus: “The bands I like, they don’t sell too many records / And the girls I like, they don’t kiss too many boys / The books I read will never be best-sellers / But c’mon fellas, at least we made our choice.” This is a song that should turn into a romping presence at live shows, a tune that will last as long as anything in Turner’s catalog. The rollicking “Time Machine” is a dancey number that also stands out among the extra songs.
“Tattoos” is a Turner specialty: Just him and an acoustic guitar. It’s an anthem for the inked, with a line that will be appreciated by a very select demographic (but a demographic that may just make up a majority of Turner’s fanbase): “If we had the luck to live our lives a second time through, we’d be sure to get the same tattoos.”
"We're all awkward understudies wearing comfortable shoes getting comfortable with doing it wrong" - We Shall Not Overcome
At the end of the day, I can write plenty of nice words about Frank Turner - but the point to take home is that he’s one of the most consistent songwriters currently producing music. Tape Deck Heart may not be quite as good as the phenomenal England Keep My Bones, but it’s a quality release with excellent lasting value that will be a mainstay on album of the year lists in 2013. It’s jubilant singer/songwriter rock and roll that can be enjoyed by young punk fans and their parents, which speaks volumes about Turner’s reach and continued potential.
With the combination of his stellar 2012 - the Wembley show that turned into a live DVD, his performance at the Olympics, his signing to a major U.S. label and consistently smart touring choices - and a quality 2013 full-length to support, Turner is showing that he has the wits about him to be among the top international musicians for years down the road.