Frank Turner’s fifth studio album, “Tape Deck Heart,” shows a more mature side of the English singer-songwriter. It’s personal, emotional, and lyrically impressive. Frank sings of his own inner demons, and it’s painfully easy to relate. Bitterness, sadness, joy, passion, friendship… it’s all covered. Basically, Frank’s done it again.
Recommended tracks: Recovery, The Way I Tend To Be, Anymore, We Shall Not Overcome
Recovery – The first single from the album, “Recovery,” remains one of my favorites. It opens the album in a big way. It’s quick, and the chorus demands to be screamed. In fact, the verses also demand to be learned, if only so you can feel proud for keeping up with the impressively fast lyrics. “Recovery” is the start of new things, and it’s also a song that would sound amazing in a concert-setting. It’s easy to imagine a crowd of people singing this song, and striving for better days.
“I know you are a cynic, but I think I can convince you. Yeah, cause broken people can get better if they really want to.”
Losing Days – “Losing Days” keeps the album moving quickly. This song shows Frank’s maturity as a person, and as an artist. When you’re young, you live life hard and fast. This song discusses what happens when you get older, and realize that you can’t live that way forever. It also tackles missed opportunities. It’s easy to relate to this one.
“I used to think that I would never live past twenty five, and when you think like that, each day is a gift if you survive.”
The Way I Tend To Be – It wouldn’t be a Frank Turner album without a bit of self-loathing. But instead of being too hateful, this one speaks of living and learning. One word that people are consistently going to use to describe this album is mature, and this song is a perfect example of that maturity. Frank seems to be wishing that a past love would swoop in and change him, but he’s never bitter or angry about any breakup. It’s all just very grown-up. It’s also damn catchy, and one of my early favorites.
“You stood apart in my calloused heart, and you taught me and here’s what I learned:
That love is about all the changes you make, and not just three small words.”
Plain Sailing Weather – Hey, here’s that bitter, angry self-loathing I was talking about! This is basically the perfect angry song. Frank’s mad at society for making him believe that love’s easy, and he’s mad at himself for messing things up in a relationship. The song is loud, full of explicatives, and clearly rage-induced, and god, I love it for that. Another early favorite for me.
“Just give me one fine day of plain sailing weather and I can fuck up anything, anything.”
Good & Gone – This song falls perfectly into place after “Plain Sailing Weather.” It’s basically a slower, more subdued version of the last song, actually. It’s “Plain Sailing Weather” after a few moments taken to calm down. It’s “Plain Sailing Weather” with an added plea for another chance. In a particularly memorable line Frank curses Hollywood for making love seem easy. You have to respect his criticisms of society. He has a point.
“Fuck you, Hollywood, for teaching us that love was free and easy, for dressing all our daughters as princesses.”
Tell Tale Signs – Frank has described this song as the closing of the Amy saga. Any Frank Turner fan knows Amy from “I Am Disappeared” and “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot.” I’m not sure if Amy is one woman, or a symbol for several women, but Frank sounds pretty done with her. This song is dark. He compares Amy to scars on his arms that he made with a razor when he was young. I know that I’m constantly praising Frank’s songwriting, but the lyrics in this are so impressive that I have to mention them. There’s even a nod to the album name when Frank talks about his “tape deck heart.” This song is a work of art.
“Well, of course I’ve changed. With all the things that I’ve done and the places I’ve been
I’d be a machine if I had stayed the same.”
Four Simple Words – “Four Simple Words” is a light follow-up to “Tell Tale Signs.” It’s a love song for the genre, for music. Frank never sounds happier than when he’s shouting about making music, and this is no exception. It’s clear that music is where Frank belongs. The next time I come to a show, I know I’ll be screaming, “I want to dance,” back at Frank like they’re the only words that I know.
“Somebody told me that music with guitars was going out of fashion, and I had to laugh. This shit wasn’t fashionable when I fell in love. If the hipsters move on why should I give a fuck?”
Polaroid Picture – This song deals with change. There’s definitely a melancholy feel, especially in the first half of the song. It’s never exactly sad though. Instead, it encourages appreciating what you have. “Taking a picture” of the good times, if you will. It sounds more like “Plain Sailing Weather.” It’s a little loud, and just a little angry, with a slight burst of hope and appreciation for life by the end. Classic Frank.
“Let go of the little distractions. Hold close to the ones that you love, because we won’t all be here this time next year, so while you can take a picture of us.”
The Fisher King Blues – While there’s nothing overtly political on this album, like we’ve seen in the past with things like “Love Ire and Song” and “Thatcher Fucked the Kids,” there certainly is a lot of social commentary, and it continues here. This song doesn’t really have an angry sound, but if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll find there’s a fair amount of bitterness. This is a song for the broken. It might be a little down on life, but there’s still something optimistic here. When Frank begs for the broken boys and girls to fix themselves to fix the fisher king, you want to listen to him.
“People never really change, it seems. We’re all broken boys and girls, at heart.”
Anymore – This one hurts. It’s actually painful to listen to this song, and it’s not because it isn’t undeniably lovely. It’s a beautiful song. It’s quiet. It’s subtle. With nothing but a guitar and heartbreaking lyrics that describe the slow breakdown of a relationship, this one hits harder than anything else on the album.
“Not with a bang, but with a whimper. It wasn’t hard. It was kind of simple. Three short steps from your bed to your door. Darling, I can’t look you in the eyes now and tell you I’m sure if I love you anymore.”
Oh Brother – It’s easy to see why Frank has such a strong following. He’s a ridiculously likable guy, and damn it, I just want to be his friend. “Oh Brother” is a testament to a friend. Frank’s written songs for friends before, like “Dan’s Song,” and every time he just seems more accessible and real. Songs like “Oh Brother” are the reason that fans so desperately want to have a beer with this guy. However, this isn’t one of my favorites. It straddles a strange line between being a fast track and a slow one. Some shifts in the sound don’t really work for me.
“Time it will change us but don’t you forget: You are the only brother I’ve got. I’ll see you when I see you.”
Broken Piano – This song is a bit like classic literature. It isn’t particularly easy to get through, but it’s worth it. Frank makes strange decisions with sound. Sometimes the song feels roundabout, and almost a little painful. But, like most classic literature, there is one hell of a payoff at the end. When you finish this song, you feel like you’ve gained something. You feel better for it. “Broken Piano” is Frank’s most experimental song ever, and while I wouldn’t want an entire album like it, this song falls into a lovely place on “Tape Deck Heart.”
“So I sat down in my sadness, beneath your window, and I played sad songs on the minor keys of a broken piano.”
We Shall Not Overcome – After “Broken Piano” this album needs something a little more “classic Frank.” “We Shall Not Overcome” delivers. This song is great fun. It’s back to the relatable, sing-along type that we saw earlier in the album. Frank has always made music for people who don’t quite fit in, and this song is a testament to that. If you’ve ever gotten grief about your taste in music, friends, books, or anything really, this song is written just for you. It breaks down in a glorious way that pretty much forces you to scream along with the song. This is another favorite for me.
“The bands I like, they don’t sell too many records. The girls I like, they don’t kiss too many boys. The books I read will never be bestsellers, but come on fellows, at least we made our choice.”
Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons – I listened to the live version of this song for ages before the album release, and I’m eternally grateful to finally have a studio version. As the story goes, Gene Simmons has slept with 4,600 women. This song is Frank’s commentary on the implication that men in bands “all play women like Gene Simmons.” The lyrics couldn’t be sharper. He begins by criticizing Simmons, but ends up agreeing that he’s done his fair share of sinning, too. It’s honest, and it’s slow enough that it gives you a moment to breathe after a relatively tiring few songs.
“Gene Simmons, wherefore art thou? I could sure use a hand on my shoulder now.”
Tattoos – This song is much lighter than anything else we hear on the album. It is exactly what the title says. It’s a love song for tattoos. Frank does expand a bit and use tattoos as a commentary about life. There’s a bit more to this than meets the eye. Despite that, “Tattoos” is still my early least favorite song on the album. There’s a huge chance it’ll grow on me, but for now, it doesn’t seem to fit well on the album. Maybe that’s the point. On a very mature album, “Tattoos” stands out as a song that could’ve been recorded in a garage with a few buddies. It’s also the shortest song on the album. On a different album, it might work better for me, but it doesn’t fit here.
“Some people don’t get it, and some people don’t care. And some of us, we have tattoos.”
Undeveloped Film – If melancholiness had a specific sound, it would be this song. This track is a narrative in which Frank finds a box of old photographs and explores them. He looks back on past loves, past lives, and the way that he’s changed. It’s achingly personal, and again, the writing is top-notch.
“We’re all fading away, a truth I can see in the very last frame of that long lost role of film.”
Time Machine – This one picks back up again. It’s louder and faster than the past few tracks. Though it sounds different, it’s actually very similar to “Undeveloped Film.” This song also deals with the past. Though this song explores human history as well as personal history. It’s basically a chance for Frank to make a lot of cool, quick references.
“It runs on diesel oil and Donnie Darko daydreams.”
Cowboy Chords – This song is interesting because it feels like Frank is trying to explain himself. He explains what he’s trying to do with his time. The song is intimate, and, above all else, it makes me want to thank Frank for his music. He’s trying to make people happy with his music, and I think he’s done it.
“All along the while I was just trying to make people smile.”