Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart | Album Review | By Volume

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Frank Turner

Tape Deck Heart

Frank Turner settles into the Middle Ages.

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Author: on April 24, 2013
April 22, 2013

The entire rise of Frank Turner’s empire owes itself to his coming of age in punk rock better-to-burn-out’s Million Dead. His first two records were the contemplative b-side to a nomadic lifestyle spent sleeping on the living room floors of strangers and many a midnight drive that he had been living since he was nineteen years old. The punk community on both sides of the Atlantic fell on every word. Turner’s lyrical wit was the jaded honesty looking many a die hard music fan back in the mirror. As he continued to rise back into and surpass the critical notoriety that he saw in his Million Dead days, his songwriting expanded beyond the world of punk rock lifers and the results were a mixture of glorious (see “Redemption” and “Try This at Home”) and tedious (“Balthazar Impresario”, “I Still Believe”) but the good far outweighed the sagging suspicion that Frank had worked himself into a corner; he could either pump out retread after retread of his prior four records or take a great leap forward into the pop world.

Frank Turner took the latter way out. It’s no surprise. The man has been covering Queen and ABBA at his shows for years and he has always had a knack for hooks. Unfortunately the results at times ring hollow. His words never quite hit as hard as they used to, which makes a swathe of it the folk-punk-gone-pop equivalent to Bruce Springsteen’s post-Born in the USA output before the Bush Jr. administration reignited his passion. Sure, there are plenty of sing-a-longs and plaintive musings on relationships gone awry that always seem to close out with Frank’s long standing positivity, but they are more Chicken Soup for the Soul than “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous”. At Tape Deck Heart‘s best moments, such as the lovely refrain of Polaroid Picture and the endearing heart felt love song “The Way I Tend to Be” in which he rekindles all of his prior tact and eloquence, Frank still proves that he can construct a quality song and dance that sounds like it was written for your ears only. But at its worst it tanks. Take the six month old pre-release internet single “Four Simple Words” with its too smart for its own good attempts at personality making it the “punk” equivalent of Italo Calvino’s “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler” being narrated by Hootie and the Blowfish. It’s noxious and cheap, taking the rest of the album’s play time to finally get its wretched cadence out from between the ears.

Tape Deck Heart is an even split. On one hand Frank is still one of the most gifted songsmiths in recent memory, but this new Frank – the pop star – still has a few kinks to work out in his saccharine guise.

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