Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Who'd Have Thought?

Frank Turner is probably the first contemporary singer I met on the Internet.

Frank Turner at Brooklyn Bowl, August, 2010

2009's LOVE IRE & SONG popped up on my feed and I followed the album cover there, fell hard for the rollicking hooks and humor in "Reasons Not to Be An Idiot," Googled him, and as luck would have it within a week or so I was catching stage-divers at a performance of his in Brooklyn. He's a British guy, a former punk rocker whom, I suspect, was clever enough to realize the limits of the genre and also, the potential for tweaking it for a wider audience, unleashing a kind of "folk-punk" that aspires to combine the latter's energy with respect for the former's dignity. I think he's well aware this combination has legs but by all indications he's a real worker not leaving it to chance. His growing legion of fans is best represented by a gruesome gallery of 20-somethings with his lyrics tattooed onto them viewable at Frank's Facebook page, but I like to think he's also gathering in old Springsteen, Dylan and Billy Bragg fans like me (more likely, he'll usher the first group to the second, which to me is OK too). He knows who buys records and tickets.

What strikes me most about Turner? He's so aggressively un-ironic and direct he's practically a dork. Even Springsteen gave up on writing about the redemptive power of rock n' roll 30 years ago, but that's precisely what Turner does on the stirring "I Still Believe" from 2011's ENGLAND KEEP MY BONES. Just this week, the first single from Turner's forthcoming TAPE DECK HEART was released: Evidence from a few listens indicates that if anything he's only intensified the formula that's brought him this far: Soaring background vocals join a jaunty piano as Turner sings about acquiring some ambition in life.