Review Summary: An unbridled burst of positive energy and optimism, Frank Turner forgoes subtlety for fun on his 6th album.
Positive Songs for Negative People picks up right where the stellar Tape Deck Heart picked up, on the banks of the muddy thames. This time however, the english singer-songwriter comes armed with an unbridled sense of optimism and energy, presenting an album that is in stark contrast with his back catalogue that while excellent, could be quite a bummer at times.
“The Angel Islington” starts somberly with some light finger picking and Turner’s wistful waxing about his newfound resolve to start again before exploding into “Get Better.” One of his finest songs to date, the song raucously runs through its verse and chorus with the aforementioned unbridled and uplifting sense of positivity that permeates the bulk of the album’s tracks. The lyrics can be heavy handed, but in line with past songs like “Recovery,” the tracks unequivocally accomplish what they set out to.
“The Next Storm” is an E-Street tinged number that jangles along with playful piano notes and Turner’s ever present infectious vocal melodies and lyrical hooks, and continues the relentless onslaught of happiness. “The Opening Act of Spring” hearkens back to Turner’s earlier days with folk-punk acoustic guitar and vibrant mandolin leads taking the forefront, though the acoustic version by far eclipses the full band album version.
After “Glorious You” rounds out the most outwardly optimistic and exuberantly positive run of tracks in Turner’s discography, “Mittens” comes along at the right time to shift the mood a bit. The song is one of his finest, and breaks from the album’s prevailing theme by taking a look at a failed relationship with a simple but effective simile that will tug at the heartstrings of many a jaded lover. Beginning pensively and low-key, the track builds into an emotive finale with some of his most rousing and pained vocal delivery to date.
If one song sums up the mission statement of Positive Songs For Negative People best, it’s probably “Demons.” Another uplifting anthem, Turner proudly exclaims that “Life gave me demons but I made friends with the Devil so I’m invincible.” The line will resonate with people who have gone down the path of addiction or depression and prevailed to come out on the other side. Lines like these could lose context on some listeners and come off as overly boisterous, but it won’t hinder the album for those who need it in their lives right now.
“Song for Josh” closes out the album in exemplary fashion. An ode to a fallen friend, it was recorded live at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC where Josh Burdette worked and made memories with Turner during his many visits over the years. The song is one of the most heartfelt and sincere expressions of Turner’s entire discography, and will almost surely coax a few tears on first listen. The passion is clear in the singing, the lyrics, and in the crowd’s applause at the close of the tribute.
Positive Songs For Negative People embraces unbridled optimism and presents 12 tracks of uplifting, sincere, feel-good music. The sound continues to stray from Turner's acoustic folk punk roots and successfully veers into massive arena sized rock anthems about the upsides of life courtesy of backing band The Sleeping Souls. Lacks the lyrical flourishes, ambiguous metaphor, and extended prose that characterizes his finest works such as Love, Ire, and Song and England Keep My Bones, but PSFNP doesn't really call for it, anyway. Turn it up, sing along, look on the bright side of things, and enjoy.