Being a thirteen year old, nerdy Asian music fanatic living in an alienating Australian community, you’d think that I would have enough reason to latch onto an album for its lyrical sentiments. Yet, seldom have I done so, as having to read and comprehend lyrics (beyond the simplicity of genres such as pop punk or contemporary R&B, that is) has always seemed to be as daunting as a copy of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment
, or T.S. Eliot’s legendary Prufrock
piece (in addition to the fact that I am, quite simply, lazy), and I am rarely motivated to dedicate myself to such tasks. Take In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
for instance. Jeff Mangum’s writing is so abstruse; so subtle, that it would make one (well, me, at least) feel intellectually inferior when reading his perfectly woven symbolic literary illustrations. Not that I avoided the task in order to stabilize my ego (but by saying so may only reinforce the idea), but rather that Mangum’s writings just seemed far
beyond me, both in their seemingly distant themes of sexual exploration or deep religious analysis, as well as their unquestionable literary sophistication, and I was therefore unable to fully appreciate the full depth of these lyrics.
But, fortunately, I found a relatable, thought-provoking and emotional lyrical genius in the talented English singer-songwriter Frank Turner
. Turner provided a poetically vague style conveyed through a fairly suburban vocabulary, presenting themes of youthful ideals and punk rock mentalities in his anthemic masterpiece Love Ire & Song
. The Frank Turner we see on England Keep My Bones
is no longer the self-described “underdog kid”, but continues to embody this character in songs such as “Eulogy” and the general theme of “Peggy Sang the Blues”. The other recurring theme Turner incorporates on the record is an expression of his identity as an Englishman, presented in “Rivers” as a journey, implied to be both metaphorical and literal, in which Turner attempts to re-establish his English heritage in his own mind, even stating a burial plan expressing his love of the country, while “Wessex Boy” discusses the nostalgia of returning to a hometown, penned in a rather straight-forward manner, as opposed to the symbolic style of “Rivers”. Turner’s collection of miscellaneous lyrical ideas are equally impressive; “I Am Disappeared” paints surreal images of Bob Dylan
, among many other things, as a way of escaping from what is described in the song as “the worst days”; meanwhile, “Redemption”, a love song, discusses his reconciliation with a woman he left in a London restaurant and the regret he feels as he is “guided” by the words of Adam Trask and Bruce Springsteen
. Evidently, a very personal album for Frank, but manages to penetrate the listener’s emotions as if his sentiments were their own.
Frank and his backing band The Sleeping Souls continue to uphold the charming instrumental performance of Turner’s previous works, yet England Keep My Bones
seems somewhat more enlightened musically than ever before (both in composition and general execution), setting the perfect backdrop to Frank’s vocals, obviously the leading musical element on the record. Electric guitarist Ben Lloyd puts much more of his efforts into impact as opposed to the usual melodic approach of electric guitarists, instead leaving much of the instrumental melodic lines to pianist Matt Nasir. Bassist Tarrant Anderson provides a somewhat traditional set of ‘60s folk bass lines with the occasional lick here or there, making up one half of the rhythm section alongside drummer Nigel Powell, whose work passively holds down the album’s rhythm to keep the spotlight on Turner’s contributions. Additionally, Turner’s amazing acoustic guitar parts are absolutely spell-binding; “Nights Become Days” pits a Kansas
-“Dust in the Wind”-reminiscent acoustic guitar composition alongside a majestic, sweeping piano line and mesmerizing strings to create a light wall of sound behind Turner’s vocals, while more upbeat tracks like “One Foot Before the Other” and “Glory Hallelujah” make use of the auditory texture of the acoustic guitar as a supplementary layer to the standard rock group line-up of electric guitar, bass and drums.
Surely, England Keep My Bones
is one of the most fulfilling albums of 2011, providing yet another refreshing work from one of the world’s most promising independent singer-songwriters. The record portrays Frank Turner’s misfortunes, emotions, ideas and morals in a way that is so well written that listeners like myself who have yet to go through these experiences may not relate to, but will surely understand
, while the audience that have will instantly idolize Turner’s ability to express his thoughts in literary pieces as flawless as these, furthering the splendour of Turner’s efforts on top of his already marvellous vocal and instrumental performances. So, it is only fitting that the record should end with the words “so ring that victory bell
”, as England Keep My Bones
is surely another triumph for our favourite Wessex boy.