Frank Turner’s sixth full-length begins and ends with two moments of quiet, acoustic contemplation.
Opening track The Angel Islington sees the English songwriter wander around the London streets calls home when he’s not on tour, while closer Song For Josh is a stirring and heartbreaking eulogy to his friend Josh Burdette, recorded at the 9:30 in Washington, DC, where Burdette worked before he tragically took his own life. Both reveal, by ripping open, the purity of heart that drives Turner to do what he does, the life that’s consumed him for the last decade since he left Million Dead to go solo. In between, the tone is more bombastic – personal but universal grapplings with life and self that, with a little help from longtime bandmates The Sleeping Souls, combine to make a solid collection of songs.
As the record’s title suggests, this is an album designed as a crutch to lean on – songs to wake up to and feel that, whatever’s gone or is going wrong, there’s still a lot to be thankful for. That’s not as self-helpy or as patronising as it sounds – these are songs born out of Turner’s own torment, and, as such, are his own cathartic coping mechanism rather than anything didactic. That’s something laid out by the insistent punk rock chug of Get Better. It follows The Angel Islington, immediately bursting into a glorious sense of uplift and hope that kicks the album into a gear which doesn’t let up until that final track. The Next Storm’s rollicking tune is laced with piano as it tries to break away from the hold of difficult times past, Josephine is a full-throttle march into the possibilities and dreams, and Glorious You is an anthemic, singalong celebration of friendship. Elsewhere, Out Of Breath subverts the traditional hardcore punk template with its folky, hoedown leanings, while Love Forty Down’s extended metaphor somehow survives itself and comes out victorious despite its slightly clunky conceit.
But it’s Mittens that serves up the real ace. A lovelorn tale that’s as much full of hope as it is regret, it seems to embody exactly what Positive Songs For Negative People, a song that moves away from the past even as it ruminates over it, and is somehow okay with the fact that things don’t always work out how we want them to. It’s a powerful rock song full of bombast, but also riddled a fragility and tenderness that gives it that quintessential sincerity that’s so central to Turner’s music. Of course, that appears in spades on the afore-mentioned Song For Josh. Forlorn and sparse – just Turner and a guitar in a room full of silence and sadness – it’s a beautiful tribute that reaches out through the darkness to offer a helping hand. At one point, you can hear that Turner is on the verge of crying, his voice breaking as he chokes back the tears, knowing that for his friend, that helping hand came too late. For others, though, it could well be a saving grace. That’s the power of this song. It’s a fitting end to what is Turner’s most cohesive, rounded – and quite possibly best – album to date.