By Jack Sharkey, June 1, 2018
Front to Back Album Review: Frank Turner - Be More KInd
- Released: May 4, 2018
- Label: Polydor
- Producer: Austin Jenkins, Joshua Blocks, Charlie Hugall, Chris Vivion
2.5 Play Buttons
From post-hardcore punk to acoustic balladeer, Frank Turner has had a most interesting career. The first four songs on Turner’s newest release Be More Kind underscores that perfectly – a whiplash-inducing roller-coaster ride through the styles Turner is at home with. On the title track Turner gets sweet and kindly and urges us all to just be nice. That track is followed by the political and cynical Make America Great Again which is what punk and folk music is supposed to be, it’s just that maybe I’m worn out a little from politics. On the other hand, the best punk and folk music is timely (and sometimes doesn’t age well). I just don’t know anymore. I used to be able to be entertained without really thinking too much, now it seems that’s all I do…think about stuff.
I really can’t figure out if I like this album, love this album or am just ambivalent about it. Going Nowhere is a timeless take on the working man’s lament and it works perfectly, as does 21st Survival Blues. From track-to-track my opinion changes. This may be the perfect album for the Spotify age – listen a couple of times, find the tracks you like and add them to your current fave playlist. My biggest problem with the album is that the production just doesn’t do a good job of inviting the listener in to actually listen to what Turner is saying and that’s a shame. They say music is written for how its audience listens to it, and maybe in this case that’s totally true. Be More Kind will sound okay on an Alexa or Apple Homepod when you’re off doing something else, but it’s just not an exciting and emotionally endearing album because of how it sounds.
The soundstage is tight and compressed – almost suffocatingly so. At times it fits with Turner’s breathless, angry and tired delivery, but at other times it gets in the way of what I want to listen to. Lo-fi can be awesome, but lazy production is mostly just a distraction. Although some of the music is really, really good, it’s just not an album that invites you to your easy chair for forty-eight minutes of listening. To me that’s a lost opportunity because – as usual – Frank Turner has some good things to say and he says them in a very musical way.
Turner fans will love this album, but if you’re among the uninitiated you may find yourself dismissing this record as just another jumble of unfocused songs by a talented songwriter. I don’t know, I’m having so many mood swings whilst listening to Be More Kind I might not be able to make up my mind for a few more weeks. Unfortunately, by that time I may have moved on to other, shinier, more attention getting music.
Listened to on LS50W streaming from Spotify Premium.