Most of us have experienced it, the moment when someone in your social company decides to ‘give you a song’. No matter what the quality, it’s always hard to know how to react when presented with music in its most honest, most immediate form. The effect was brilliantly summed up by Nick Hornby in About A Boy, especially the bit about closing their eyes. Listening to a Frank Turner record is not that different an experience, so openly does he wear his heart on his sleeve. Shawn of the hardcore punk noise of his previous band Million Dead, his three solo albums to date have been big on melody, passion and belief.
England Keep My Bones does nothing to change that template. Recorded as a solo record with a band, it once again places Turner utterly to the fore. Whether you like it or not will completely depend on whether you like him, as the music is reasonably standard, folk tinged acoustic punk. The concept may be tricky for some too, the record being essentially an open love letter to England in general, and his home in particular. With songs written for his grandmother, a title taken from Shakespeare and talk of Wessex, it’s hardly a forward looking work but this is still an enormously effecting record.
Throughout the twelve tracks, Turner spins a good tale – whether it be of his own experiences or that characters he has met along the way. It is very much a record about belief – in yourself, your friends, the power of music, but certainly not religion if the closing ‘Glory Hallelujah’ is anything to go by. The production does polish up his sound a little but there are still huge debts to the likes of the Levellers and New Model Army, hardly names to get the hipsters excited but very much part of Turner’s lineage. Only on a couple of occasions does he slip up – once on the a capella ‘English Curse’ (an off the mark attempt at a straight folk song) and the aforementioned final track, which seems a bit too mean spirited compared to what has gone before. There’s enough cynicism in the world already and a Frank Turner record is the place you can go to escape it. Just close your eyes and lose yourself in his world.