By Katelyn Harrop Entertainment Editor
Frank Turner is no newcomer to the music scene. Prior to the release of his solo EP, “Campfire Punkrock,” he had been a member of two fairly successful punk bands, Kneejerk and Million Dead. Between 2006 and 2012, Turner released seven recordings, all of which have been decently well received, which leads me to believe that there is absolutely no excuse for the muddled mess that is “Tape Deck Heart.”
Is it folk? Is it punk rock? Is it a 17-year-old’s attempt at a singer-songwriter album? It’s none of those. It’s all of those. It’s everything except the kitchen sink in the worst way possible. Turner makes the well-intentioned mistake of trying to bridge folk-pop fans with punk-rock fans, but it seems to have been just too big of an undertaking for the 34-year-old Bahrain born musician.
There are two ways that this album could have easily been redeemed in my eyes: excellent lyricism, or strong songwriting. Unfortunately, overall, “Tape Deck Heart” has neither of these. The lyrics are painfully arbitrary and juvenile, particularly exemplified in the opening line of one of the last tracks, “Tattoos,” “Oh it’s pay day/ it’s pay day/ I got a check from the man.” I get a paycheck, you get a paycheck, Frank Turner gets a paycheck… the world spins madly on.
“Tell Tale Signs,” nestled smack dab in the middle of the album, basically sounds like every single sad, indie breakup song ever written. In addition to its exceedingly un-unique lyrics and theme, it has a painfully boring melody line. In the most general sense, it’s the kind of song that made me stop listening to singer-songwriter online radio stations. Toward the conclusion of the album comes
“We Shall Not Overcome.” It’s like that song on your friend’s garage band’s mediocre album that’s definitely a little catchy, but still fails to validate the recording. The basic gist of the track is that, out of the blue, Turner really wants to remind us all that he’s a hipster. “The bands I like, they don’t sell too many records and the girls I like, they don’t kiss too many boys/ the books I read will never be best sellers, but come on fellas, at least we made our choice.” If only the songs on “Tape Deck Heart” were as unique and innovative as it’s writer’s interests.
After a streak of four bad tracks, Turner returns to his quality indie roots with “Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons?” Which is actually a very decent song. It’s lyrically unique, and, while the melody isn’t anything special, it has a simple beauty to it. Despite the album’s overall writing being a huge disappointment, it is important to recognize its few shining moments. “Recovery” and “The Fisher King Blues” are incredibly catchy and well-written tracks that remind me of some of Turners earlier songs such as “Wessex Boy” from his 2011 album, “England Keep My Bones.”
Although Tape Deck Heart is not all that special, it does have its redeeming moments and is by no means a reflection on some of Turners earlier albums, which are actually quite good. If you’re in a second chance sort of mood, give his albums “England Keep My Bones” or his debut EP, “Campfire Punkrock” a listen. You may be surprised.