Article by Andrés Alvarado
Folk-punk anthems cheer the masses, correct? What better way to kick-off the month of May than by ignoring those *NSYNC memes and focusing instead on Frank Turner‘s new release? We think it’s a fair trade-off. On his latest Be More Kind, Turner shares plenty of thoughts, some with a touch of urgency, some a tad mellow. Regardless, the moral of the story behind Be More Kind is poignant and clear: In a world that has decided // That it’s going to lose its mind // Be more kind, my friends // Try to be more kind.
On Be More Kind, Turner, whose history surrounding political opinion is significant, finds himself trying to search once more for a light at the end of the tunnel. The folksy optimist he is, his thoughts on Brexit and the Donald come across as light-hearted by tone, yet lyrically full fledged serious. Leading the pack is “1933,” a classic Turner-tune indicative that the Englishman means business. Quips Turner “The first time is a tragedy // The second time is a farce // Outside it’s 1933 // So I’m hitting the bar.” It’s 2018, and this Brit reckons that the rise of Trump seems a tad too familiar to the rise of a certain Nazi leader. The anthem is punchy, angry, energetic, and well-versed. This is the Frank Turner we all got accustomed to back in the England Keep My Bones days. Welcome back, Mr. Turner.
While “1933” is arguably the apotheosis of Be More Kind, it’s hardly on its own. Track “21st Century Survival Blues” touches on the possibility of finally annihilating our planet’s resources and the ensuing struggles. Through a guitar-driven somber-filled melody, Turner’s moody delivery resonates greyish, yet hopeful that love of self and our neighbor will push us through. Album opener “Don’t Worry” is a mid-paced, clap-filled ditty that sends Turner back to his folks-roots, and reminds us what’s likable about simple, honest, stripped-down songs.
Among the stronger remaining bunch, we find the soothing notes of namesake “Be More Kind,” dynamically peppy “Brave Face,” an enjoyable strings and keys driven “Blackout,” the campfire essence of “The Lifeboat,” and the easy-going head-bobbing tunage of “There She Is.”
That being said, Turner takes a swing for the fences on “Make America Great Again“… and misses, mightily. While the intent is there, lyrically and musically, “Make America Great Again” is tolerable at best and plays as a number you would hear a choir of middle-school kids sing, as their substitute teacher delivers keys through the school’s wonky piano. MAGA is a daring and caring attempt, but simply no! However, we must admit, the accompanying music-video is pretty darn good.
Ultimately, Be More Kind is a delightful record and, more importantly, Frank Turner finds his song-writing prowess at its best in quite a while. Although we live in turbulent and scary times, Turner has found a way to channel the negativity into an uplifting positive – and that’s quite a talent. Cheers!
Score: 7.5/10 — Key Tracks: “1933,” “21st Century Survival Blues,” “The Lifeboat,” and “There She Is.”