Frank Turner’s highly anticipated new album, FTHC is out now. Like most albums these days, a few songs have already been released as singles, and one even had a mini tour named after it. But for this album, most of the songs have already seen the light of day in one way or another, whether that is a live stream or a real life show. As always, this album review is based on the first listening to the album as a whole.
Short, sweet and angry, this song sets the prescience for this album perfectly. It goes hard and makes no apologies for it, in a way we haven’t seen from Frank for a long time.
For me, this song shows a new attitude to life for Frank. With lines like “I know who I am, Non-Serviam”, although quoted from Lucifer, it feel like Frank is taking that on himself. He has matured, he knows where he is in life now, and is no longer going to take anything from anyone.
When this was first released, lots of people commented that it sounded like the old days of Million Dead – and rightly so, it certainly does sound like one of theirs. I think this is a way of Frank going back to his old ways, but as his new self. Heavy and angry, but also matured and firm in who he is now, and able to make better decisions.
What a way to open the album.
If you haven’t heard this song by now, what rock have you been hiding under?
A lockdown song (there had to be one), but one that is more triumphant and positive that a lot of them out there. This song has already rocked many live crowds and will continue to rock many more.
Haven’t Been Doing So Well
Released on day 1 of Lost Evenings IV, and played 3 times over the 4 days, this song is a stark and almost brutal look at mental health, while keeping it in a Frank Turner rock-and-roll way. This song has it all, with tongue twisters, guitar solos and crowd singalongs, it just works.
The everyday struggles of life are explored well, making this one we can all relate to. There are certainly days when I haven’t been doing so well, and I’m sure there are many out there who feel the same. But at the same time, there is still a personal touch to it. Frank mentions Mohammed Ali, not for the first time in his music (and also not the last time on the album), and he really knows his own struggles and where he is in life.
A real turn in direction from previous Frank Turner albums, this one keep up the theme so far seen in the first songs. Although a little cheesy on the rhymes, the song still rocks out. I can only imagine the state of the crowd when this gets played live, a true punk rock song if ever I heard one!
Lyrically, this song is another one on the deeper end of the emotional spectrum, exploring Frank’s past substance use, and the dark places that took him. This is something I’ve noticed Frank be a lot more open and honest about, especially when talking about some of his older songs, like Nights Become Days. Maybe this is a note back to the older days, after all, FTHC marks the 10 year anniversary of England Keep My Bones.
In the latter half of the song, it goes into a personal monologue, with Frank really expressing where he took himself to, but also where he is now and what in the end, saved him. Life isn’t about being off you face all the time, but so much more.
The opening of this one took me by surprise, a piano solo? This one must be different.
Ah, there it is, the drums before it gets seriously loud and angry.
At Lost Evenings last year, Frank mentioned that this song forms the first of a trio, with My Bad and Miranda completing it, and tells the full story of his upbringing and relationship with his father. As part one, this tells the story of his youth, and being sent to boarding school, away from home and his family, and how for most of his life he didn’t have a father.
Although a heavy start, the end becomes a lot more ‘folk-y’, with the chorus and verses becoming full of lyrics and personal stories. Even to end there is a crowd singalong, similar to older songs. Although there is still the anger that was present in that song, this time it is a lot more resolved and there is an end to it.
This is the shortest song of the album, coming in at 1:44, and really gets straight to it. I know Frank is a big fan of NOFX, and this is certainly one in their style, even down to the slightly mismatched drums vs guitar, and Frank not so much singing, but shouting. Very brash and in your face.
As my first listen, this song has been one that has been really difficult to understand and get my head around. Production wise, it feels less clean than all the other songs, and at points it isn’t easy to hear what Frank is saying.
But from what I do understand, it is an angry song about politics, and about the straight white guy always being in charge and getting what they want. Frank has always been passionate about bringing people who don’t fit into these categories into the spotlight, whether that is the bands booked for his support sets, his work with charities and even the album No Mans Land.
After listening a few more times, I’m starting to enjoy it more and get it more, and I think over time I’m sure it will be one I’ll love.
This song is obviously a very important song for Frank, and one that he had to make. And to me, I think he has done this really well. As a song, it shows his true feelings and experiences of his relationship with his Father – now Miranda, but also keeping the song in the style of the album, and while also keeping it restrained enough and respectful enough that it doesn’t feel overbearing or over the top. What I’m trying to say is, he got this one right.
One thing to note is the classic Frank Turner singalong, very similar to the one in Fathers Day, which is probably very deliberate. When Fathers Day was released, there was still a lot of pent up anger and unresolved feelings. Now those feelings have been resolved and the anger and resentment has started to fade.
Frank did an interview with The Guardian, and this does a much better job of exploring the thoughts and feelings behind this song that I ever could
A Wave Across A Bay
From what I gather, this song has been around for quite a while, and with the permission of Grant and the rest of the band, a tribute to Scott Hutchinson has made it onto FTHC.
This song, dedicated to Scott, is a perfect combination of his and Frank’s style, to make a song that is both unique, but also brilliant. A song that would happily be played by Frank or Scott. The almost bluntness style FR were known for, with strong powerful lyrics and sounds, are greatly accompanied by Frank’s writing style.
Lyrically, this is a really powerful song, exploring those final moments for Scott, and the thoughts and feelings associated, both for Scott and those who knew him – and even those who didn’t. To say there weren’t tears in my eyes the first time I heard it would be a lie.
It is through these words that we get the feeling that Scott, although not physically, is still with us, in spirit, in the music he made and in the tiny changes he helped inspire. Ever falling, never landing.
The Tiny Changes Foundation was set up in Scott’s honour to help young people suffering from mental health issues. You can find out more about them and donate here.
This song was originally debuted on one of Frank’s live streams over the lockdowns, in the same one that The Gathering shows were first announced.
It is said to be inspired by Charles Dickens, and would probably feel more at home in a west end musical than a punk rock show. But what’s more punk than that?
This is another about growing up, and understanding yourself, again with some call backs to older work (although this time is pretty obvious which songs). I can imagine this one is a crowd pleaser, with plenty of easy to lean words and singalong sections. However I still can’t escape the thought of Frank doing a comical stage dance with the song (and maybe the souls as backing dancers).
The addition of Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro to close the song was unexpected but welcome.
Opening with an acapella start, followed by a classic punk riff, this one goes back to the earlier, heavier sound of the album. I think this song was played on a live stream a little while back, and from what I remember, the reaction online was incredibly positive.
This song reminds me of Plain Sailing Weather, not just in the sound but also in meaning. Plain Sailing Weather is about always messing up a good thing, but punches is about accepting that things go wrong but knowing now how to make the most of when things go right. More maturing on Frank’s part it seems.
Throwing in the crowd chant near the end was unexpected, but I love it and I’m sure it will be a hit on the live shows, keeping up that message of togetherness and making things better. Maybe even a new contender for show finisher?
Keeping up with the indie-punk sound from the last one, it also keeps the feeling going. But this time there is a bit of an apology mixed in with it. “I’m genuinely sorry, for all the stupid things I’ve done”, a feeling we all have, as everyone has made some mistakes in the past.
This song is honest about perfection. Frank has always been the first to admit he is not perfect, but this one is coming to terms with the fact that everyone is the same, and learning from them and not making the mistakes from our past. There’s also some political jabs thrown in, similar to the song 1933 about history repeating itself, just not quite as in your face.
Finally there is also an element of calling people out on their BS, especially those who hide behind the screens. No one has a perfect score, weather that is on the screen playing call of duty or in real life.
One of (if not the) first songs to see the light of day was The Work, which I first heard live in March 2020, and others I know heard it even earlier.
This song is a tribute to Frank’s wife, Jess Guise. But it’s also a song about daily life, doing ‘normal’ things and how he is no longer on tour, playing shows around the world all the time. But the key message of the song “the work that makes it worth it” really hits home. In many past songs and interviews Frank has made it clear that the life of a musician is not always all it’s cracked up to be, but in keeping of the spirit of the album Frank is making it better and really now putting “the work” in.
Sound wise, it is also keeping in the same theme as most other tracks, a new-ish indie-punk sound Frank has started to find for himself.
An extra note on this song, when I interviewed Frank back in August last year, I asked if working with Pet Needs had started to influence his new album, and although Frank claimed that it didn’t, this track stands out to me as one that certainly has a Pet Needs sound to it.
This is the first song on the album which I have absolutely zero idea about before listening. All the others I have heard, either as a single, live or on a live stream, or have seen Frank talk about. But Little Life, no idea.
As a song, this one is a lot folky-er than the others, using an acoustic guitar to really drive the song forward. I think this still is a hark back to his earlier work, but this time songs like The Real Damage and My Kingdom For A Horse.
Another lockdown song, but Little Life is also about simplifying, and knowing when to make a change for the better (even if a global pandemic is what is needed), and when to slow down. The new post-lockdown Frank and Jess are changed, and although there is a hint of bitterness and sarcasm in the song, it is overall happy and loving. Even though this is a song dedicated to Jess, I think the message of forced relaxation caused by Lockdown is one many of us can relate to. I certainly have a better understanding of what it means to relax now.
Farewell To My City
The album ends with a rumination on leaving the capital after 7300 days for a new life on the Essex coast with the bittersweet ‘Farewell To My City’. It’s a mini autobiography rooted in time and place, but one that ultimately accepts that it’s time to move on. – Frank Turner/Xtra Mile Recordings
The opening city sounds are a little confusing, especially with the spoken word over the bass solo. I did not see that coming.
This is certainly a song from Frank Turner, to Frank Turner, and is another song he really did need to write and release, for himself more than anyone else. He is leaving a place he once vowed never to leave, while reflecting on himself and his previous life, for one more time in this album. From the days of student life, Million Dead, skirting endless bars and venues and doing countless substances, he has realised he doesn’t need to be the person he once thought he would become.
As a song, it is really difficult to put my thoughts about it into words. I really enjoy listening to it the first time, but I don’t think it’s one I’ll be able to listen to often. And live? I’m not too sure.
However if you ever want a really angry walking tour of London, you’ve got that sorted.
The proper singing does start later on, and the song itself is starting to feel like a counter to This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The One Of Me. No longer is he longing for the big city and getting out of the boring life he thought of his childhood, but for the escape, peace and quiet. But I guess that’s growing up for you.
Well, what an album. One that certainly goes back to Frank’s routes, the music and ideology that he started with, but while also pushing himself in some new directions musically. I’d be lying if I didn’t think that part of it is to fit in with the new music trending at the moment, with the likes of Sam Fender and Declan McKenna, to name two. By no means is that a bad thing, I think it’s always good to try to be popular and get more fans.
There are some songs that I don’t think will make it into the regular live setlist (Farewell and Miranda), but there are also some which I think will become a regular – Haven’t Been Doing So Well, Non-Serviam, Punches and probably more.
In a move away from the pervious, there is very little cynicism in this album, overall it is a very positive album and one with a bright outlook. But there doesn’t need to be any negativity. Frank has continued to grow up and mature, he now has a much better outlook on life than ever before and his songwriting has made this clear.
This is certainly an album that Frank Turner, as well as all who featured and help make it, should be proud of.
FHTC is out everywhere on the 11th February 2022.
Words by Ted Stargatt
Pictures courtesy of Frank Turner/Xtra Mile/Ted Stargatt