Review Summary: I Still Believe
Every genre is part of music, every artist is probably part of a specific genre, every song that the artist produces can be placed in a different genre depending on its general sound, and every sound the artist produces can be classified into sections of the song (verse, chorus, breakdown, etc.) It is safe to say that sometimes music seems like it is nothing more than an absolute clutter of classifications: every album an artist produces gets compared to their other work, work of other artists in their genre, and work that entitled people think that they should be producing. Classifying music is as tiresome as it is outdated, as formulaic as it is worthwhile, and as futile as it is useful.
The reason I bring this up is because when I listen to music I don’t immediately think “oh my sweet heavens this is post hardcore with a hint of grindcore!” My mind isn’t pretentious or even close to being organized enough to even begin thinking about music that way. No when I listen to music I either think the music is total shit, I really enjoy the music, or I end up having a sort of spiritual experience and end up becoming the music. The option of becoming the music is the reason I think most people listen to music in the first place. The thought of being able to change bodies with a simple scream, or the thought of being able to time travel when you hear the right note is what keeps us in the constant search for new music and the consistent enjoyment of all the records we consider classics. The music we become is music that we connect to on such a divine level that we go to places we never thought we could travel to, we become people we never thought we could become, and we feel things we never even could comprehend feeling before. Music we become is far more than simple escapism or a particular genre of music we like, it is a transcendental time traveling and life changing bliss that keeps us searching and enjoying music more and more with each passing listen. The categorization of music may be organized and correct, but it can never come close to actually classifying the life changing feeling the right sound, song, or album gives us.
Part of “becoming the music” is that the music can “take us places.” The right lyric can take us right to the place where the songwriter was heartbroken, the right note can take us to a place in our childhood or even in our future, and the right instrumentation can take us straight to our most vivid dreams even when we are wide awake. Even though this a fun and unique trip that our love of music can take us on, I hesitate to think it is as unique as an actual “becoming the music” road trip. I am talking about the country album that makes you feel like you are living in the most southern part of Mississippi, the hip hop album that makes “the streets of Harlem” feel like they are part of your everyday life, and the indie album that makes you feel like you are roaming the crowded streets of San Francisco without a care in the free world. The “becoming the music” album that has always been the most interesting to me is the album that is so personal, so detailed, so well produced, and so consistent that I feel like I am actually the artist who made the album. In this case I am so connected to the music that I can actually feel like I “become the artist.”
The only “become the artist” album I feel like I have ever listened to is Frank Turner’s England Keep My Bones. It is an album that is so powerful, personal, detailed, well produced, and consistent that it makes me feel like I am actually living Frank Turner’s everyday England life. Turner describes his life in almost every relatable and detailed way possible: he describes his thoughts on his life so far in “Eulogy,” he describes his thoughts on friendship on “Peggy Sang The Blues,” he describes his hopes for the music industry on “I Still Believe,” he describes the beauty of his environment on “Rivers,” he goes into detail about his struggles on “I Am Disappeared,” he talks history on “English Curse,” he goes into simple philosophy on “One Foot Before The Other” and “If Ever I Stray,” he makes us feel at home with his homesick laughs on “Wessex Boy,” he takes on the failures of his personal and love life in “Nights Become Days” and the beautiful “Redemption,” and he ends the album with his atheistic mission statement in “Glory Hallelujah.” By the end of the album we know just about everything about Turner from one album: we know his hopes and ambitions, his loves and his fears, his philosophy and his fears, his country’s history and his hometown friends, we know his thoughts on music and God, and we know who he wants to be in the future. Turner is so detailed and open about his life on England Keep My Bones, that we know just about everything about his life. Well at least enough to feel like we could become him.
Not only does Turner present us every detail about his life in his lyrics, but he also provides unique instrumentation for each one of his stories and songs. This makes the album so personal and unique that it sounds like a novel instead of sounding like just another enjoyable rock album: the “introduction” (“Eulogy”) sounds like a Queen and Pixies mash-up on steroids, the friendship chapter (“Peggy Sang The Blues”) sounds like a Bruce Springsteen or Gaslight Anthem “working class” rock anthem, the “generational” chapter (“I Still Believe”) sounds like “Peggy Sings The Blues” with a little bit of a slowed down mewithoutyou camp fire sing along element, the “nature” chapter (“Rivers”) sounds like the perfect modern folk song, the “crisis” chapter (“I Am dDsappeared”) sounds like the modern version of every artist Turner compared himself, the “history” chapter (“English Curse”) sounds like a slowed down and focused heavy metal song, the “philosophy” chapter(s) (“One Foot Before The Other” and “If Ever I Stray”) sound like punk rock anthems for grown ups, the “romantic” chapters (“Nights Before Days” and “Redemption”) sound like genuine ballads with no clichés or filler, and the “conclusion” (“Glory Hallelujah”) sounds like an atheist anthem that you can be singing in church. It is important that every “chapter” have unique and solid instrumentation because this allows us to connect to Turner in each and every way possible. Since every chapter sounds different and is very detailed it allows us to become Turner for all of England Keep My Bones instead of just enjoying his music for a few fleeting moments.
The most important aspect of England Keep My Bones though is that every song on the album is really good and you can really enjoy the songs before you actually feel like you are turning into Turner himself: “Eulogy” is the most direct and entertaining 94 seconds you can have listening to music, “Redemption” is a heartbreaking confessional that will be stuck in your head for days and days, “If Ever I Stray” is the perfect anthem for anyone who is trying to live a humble and worry less life, “I Still Believe” kind of feels like a modern-day ”We Are The Champions” in the age when “champion” is only used as a dog name, and “Glory Hallelujah” is the song John Lennon always wanted to make. The album is filled with vivid details, superb instrumentation, and great songs that make it even easier to feel like we are living Turner’s life.
The magical qualities of music cannot be classified by genres, comparisions, or even my dumb words. The magical qualities of music are found when you connect with the music so well that you end up actually becoming what you are listening to: the music allows you to travel time, the music allows you to change bodies, and the music allows you to become things you never thought were even conceivable. The magic of music isn’t a chart, a radio, a playlist, or even a website. Musics magic is me being able to listen to a 12 track album that is so damn good and relatable that I feel like I am a folk songwriter from England who has a major beef with God. On “I Still Believe” Turner screams that he “still believes that everyone can find a song for everytime they have lost, and everytime they won.” On England Keep My Bones, Turner creates an album so powerfully detailed that he allows us to become those songs.