When the frontman for a hardcore band hangs it up to become a folk singer, one would be surprised to find out that the resulting records are even punker. But that’s what happened when Frank Turner, former singer for Million Dead, went unplugged, and on Poetry of the Deed, Turner has probably made his punkest record yet.
As a singer-songwriter, Turner has become an amalgamation of all his experiences, a folk-punk troubadour that is equal parts Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer. His songs and songwriting are deeply emotional, but not in “go cry in the corner, emo boy” sort of a way, but more in the sort of way that makes you want to hoist a pint with a bittersweet tear in your eye.
A lot of the album seems to mourn the loss of youth, “Isabel” talks of hope for the future when there is very little, and on “Dan’s Song,” Turner tells of sitting in the park playing music and drinking with his friends, feeling slightly sad over both the end of his summer and the end of his youth.
But even with those examples, the album isn’t really sad. It’s more sentimental and inspirational, showing what it means to move on without denying the fact that moving on also means to move forward, in life and in years.
It’s not just emotional songs, either. There is some room on Poetry of the Deed for political protest music, too, and it shows up on “Sons of Liberty,” a rallying cry against a government that infringes upon the rights of its people under the guise of protecting them.
The album’s shining moment is “Try This At Home,” a Billy Bragg-flavored DIY anthem that urges folks to pick up a guitar and do it themselves, because “there’s no such thing as rock stars, there’s just people who play music, and some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks.” And while this is the best track, it’s by no means solitary at the top.
Turner is using smart songwriting and emotive music to carry you through his world and to show you who he’s become. It seems that in his evolution from a hardcore singer to a folk punk rocker, Turner has defied becoming the contradictory figure that is the old hardcore nihilist. Instead, he’s reveling in his maturity without slowing down, or as he says in “Live Fast Die Old,” “You rather burn out than fade away? Well why not both, I plan to stay.”
Indeed, by going folk and embracing nostalgia, Turner has proved himself to be more of a punk rocker than those who’ll keep hammering out the same old diehard chords till the end.
Release date: Sept.8, 2009