Frank Turner is, put simply, one of the most predominant artists within his genre currently making music. His last album, England Keep My Bones, was one of the best received albums of 2011, and so his follow-up Tape Deck Heart had a lot to live up to straight off the bat.
Sadly, however, it doesn’t quite make it. The first thought of many upon hearing the album will be “Well, Damn. It’s another Poetry of the Deed.” This review could arguably be left here and Frank Turner fans would know exactly what it was saying, but let’s continue. Tape Deck Heart is not bad album – it’s a very good album – it’s just not the style expected from a Turner release.
Tape Deck Heart is an intimately personal album, concerning itself, largely, with a broken relationship; that just doesn’t seem Frank Turner. Sometimes, in fact, it sounds frightfully like Coldplay. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not why we’re here. “Four Simple Words” is why we’re here. ‘Polaroid Picture’ is why we are here – Tape Deck Heart’s versions of Poetry of the Deed‘s stand out tracks. ‘Four Simple Words’ is proper Frank ‘The shouty one’ Turner. Nostalgic and punk, with that perfect capture of Zeitgeist.
This is not to say that the break-up songs are weak, however – the country sound of ‘Tell Tale Signs’ works beautifully, as does its bitterness, along with that of the wonderful ‘Plain Sailing Weather’. A lot of the criticism comes from the album’s lack of unity as a whole – something made obvious when the album is compared to the beautifully constructed and coherent England Keep My Bones.
Turner’s song writing harks back to previous inspirations on a couple of occasions -T.S Eliot gets a mention in ‘Anymore’, and Arthurian Legend is an inspiration in ‘The Fisher King Blues’, something that may suggest a desire to get back to his ‘roots’, leaving the land of broken romance behind. Which is no bad wish – as harsh as it feels to say, heartbreak does not suit Frank Turner’s song writing. If nothing else, the album suffers from scheduling. As spring arrives, Turner brings out a melancholy heartbreak album. A winter album.
This is not meant to be a negative review, however – Tape Deck Heart is a good album. Turner’s melodies are as almost perfect as ever, and certain tracks – ‘Four Simple Words’, ‘Plain Sailing Weather’ are outstanding additions to the back catalogue. Comparisons to Poetry of the Deed have been prevalent throughout this review, although hardly fair to the new album, which is significantly more coherent and improved than the 2009 effort.
In the punky ‘Four Simple Words’, Turner, singing about the scene, asserts “This is my culture man, this is my home.” Whilst a good album, Tape Deck Heart is a departure from this home, and suffers for it. Having said that, watch out. This will be a definite grower for those who doubt it initially. Trust me.
3 stars ★★★✰✰