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Frank Turner - Poetry Of The Deed LP
London-based singer and songwriter Frank Turner has been on quite a journey since he was a member of the pol-punk heroes Million Dead -- it's been as a solo troubadour that Turner has established his reputation in the U.K. His records have gone from the stripped-down acoustic, Billy Bragg-inspired Campfire Punkrock EP in 2006 to the very electric Love Ire & Song in 2008. His brand of poetic indie punk-pop proved an underground -- and later aboveground -- smash in the United Kingdom. Poetry of the Deed is not appreciably different sonically than its predecessor, Love Ire & Song -- and that's a very good thing. Produced by Alex Newport, this set is polished, immediate, and crackles with energy. Part of that is because of the live recording setting. All the instruments were played live, with few overdubs except for the vocals. The new touches are ace: the piano interludes and solos in the middle eights and bridges, the weave of acoustic and electric guitars, the subtle backing vocals, and the beautiful placement of the rhythm section in the mix as a swirling undercurrent guiding each chord change and chorus. The set opener, "Live Fast Die Old," is a classic kind of modern pop-punk anthem. The lyrics are a manifesto of redemption and a confession of youthful mistakes. The verse in the song contains the words "...I'm tired of being damned, I'd rather be saved/And we can never sell out because we never bought in...." "Try This at Home" is a blazing, hooky D.I.Y. number that celebrates the homemade nature of punk rock, encouraging folks at home to pick up guitars, pens, and paper and ultimately laying out this truth to the masses: "There's no such thing as rock stars, they're just people who play music/And some of them are just like us, and some of them are dicks." Hilarious and true.
The title tracks is built on one of those terrific rock hooks you can't get out of your head after you've heard it once. Turner's voice is on the same level as the instrumental din, and the banging one-chord piano riff sounds like something off a Mott the Hoople record from the '70s. There's softer material here as well: Turner hasn't forgotten his acoustic roots at all; he's just learned to weave them through his love of rock & roll. "Dan's Song" is a tough yet tender tribute to a friend; the political-folkish "Richard Divine" contains an electric guitar riff at the forefront, but the fuel comes from the acoustic guitars. The beautifully nostalgic "Sunday Nights" contains a sparse drum kit, an acoustic guitar, and a Hammond B-3 organ that is reminiscent of "A Whiter Shade of Pale." The set ends with the gloriously sparse, moody, atmospheric "Journey of the Magi," which contains the line "...In the end/The journey's brought joys which outweigh the pain," offering a summation that is as fitting as it is truthful. Poetry of the Deed is ultimately an extension of what was achieved on Love Ire & Song, but it's a much more relaxed, comfortable-in-its-own-skin kind of record. Turner has grown tremendously as a lyricist, as well as a tunesmith. He's mastered the craft of writing tight and focused rock songs that transcend their beginnings but make no concessions to current sonic fashions. In other words, this is an album that will sound as fresh and powerful in five years as it does now, which is achievement enough.