Not too long ago, Frank Turner was in a band called Million Dead. Although they never became as big as their music deserved to be, they always seemed on the verge of great success. Musically, they were roughly comparable to El Paso’s post-hardcore legends At the Drive In, and many considered MD’s albums to be of similar, if not equal, quality to their Texan contemporaries. Million Dead were a force to be reckoned with; mainly confined to the underground, but also gnashing viciously at the ankles of more mainstream competition. They were loved for their frantic music, and even more frantic, spastic-vocals from the man in question here, Frank Turner.
Given that he used to be in a hardcore band, many will have been surprised back in 2005 when Frank released a demo for his solo project, which was acoustic. However, it has since proved successful enough to satisfy those who ever raised an eyebrow at his decision. Since then, he has released his debut album; played hundreds of shows in the UK, including triumphant sets at the Reading & Leeds festivals and is currently in the process of writing a second album. Before releasing ‘Sleep Is For The Week’, he released several EPs and demos, one of which was this one, ‘The Real Damage EP’.
The title track sets out the template for what is to come from the rest of the EP. Not only is it typical of the other four tracks, but is also of superior quality and is a great opener. The intelligent, yet insane lyrics from Million Dead have been toned down favourably, and are now still as intelligent and even more thought-provoking, even if they are a little simple – and that is throughout the album, not just in ‘The Real Damage’
. Simplicity isn’t a bad thing, as is proved here. The lyrics, which essentially are the focal point, are catchy, clever and sometimes comic:
“I started the night with all my friends and I ended up alone.
I started out so happy now I'm hungover and down.
It was about then that I realized I was half-way through the best years of my life.”
…is both infectious and discussing mid-life crises is thought provoking too.
Sadly, as great as the first song here, it is about as good as it gets. Except for ‘Heartless Bastard Mother***er’
the songs don’t match the quality of the first and last tracks. The EP’s closer is one of two songs here that incorporates other instruments, the other being the slow, peaceful ‘Back To Sleep’
. The simple drum beat and accompanying rhythm section add to the folk feel of the song, and also, give it a rockier edge, albeit a more ‘pop’ rock edge. The lyrics are once again witty, honestly talking about things he regrets he has done, and regrettable characteristic traits (although having met him, I can honestly say that he is a very nice guy!).
The two remaining tracks on the EP are both good in their own right, but are nothing particularly special. ‘Sunshine State’
is unique in that the vocals aren’t the only focal point, as the speed at which he plays a complex strumming pattern is very impressive. The lyrics are also impressive, but they are sung far too slowly, and the long gaps between syllables drag the quality down. ‘Sea Legs’
is another mainly solo acoustic song. Frank sings of his travels that are part and parcel of life as a professional musician. While the lyrics are of a fairly high standard, as is the guitar work, it is not as memorable as other songs on the EP, having less distinguishable features than others.
Frank Turner has done a lot in his career. He has been successful in two genres of music that on the surface, are very different. However, while this is a credible acoustic-folk album, it is done with a punk-rock spirit that will appeal to fans of his old band, as well as those who are fans of folk music, and not hardcore. Travelling is included quite frequently in his lyrics, and not just on this EP and given the quality and success of this EP and the album that followed it, there will be plenty more travelling for Frank as he is in demand here in the UK, and quite rightly so – this isn’t his best work, but Frank Turner is certainly an accomplished solo musician.