Originally posted Feb. 11, 2022
It's sometimes a strange way how we discover music we grow to love. When it comes to my adoration of Frank Turner, I have no recollection of that moment that separated the before and after, even though I can tell you the song that did it for me -- "Pass It Along." I would even go as far to say that Turner's vast repertoire of music is one of the few that I can listen to over and over and still get the same blood rush and emotional response that I did the first time I heard it. His tenth album, FTHC (an abbreviation his fans all know as Frank Turner Hard Core) provides much of what his followers have come to expect and love -- punk rock n' roll with a lot of heart thrown in. It's always been a tight line to walk, that mix of raging angst and blink-and-you-miss-it appreciation. The former trait appears in tracks like "Non Serviam" (Latin for "I will not serve") which is perhaps one of the most hard-edged songs he's ever written, while the latter manifests in an ode to his transgender father, "Miranda," about their better-late-than-never reconciliation. It's slightly reminiscent of his megahit "The Way I Tend to Be," a more tender side of the rocker where he admits he is partly to blame. But rather than just have that be a standalone tribute, the later track "Fatherless" chronicles the more punk tendencies he had about the strained relationship. No matter which personality you personally prefer -- the rebel or the reflector -- he has something for you. Anyone who goes to a Frank Turner concert, or keeps up with him on social media knows that his attitude on life is, in the words of his eighth album's title, BE MORE KIND. He has a brilliant way of addressing social wrongs without making anyone feel particularly targeted, focusing on the goodness inherent in all of us. "Haven't Been Doing So Well" is a sentiment we can all connect with based on the past two years of the pandemic and political fighting, but instead of saying who's to blame, he instead turns it upon himself. We are able to join in with his blistering commentary, not only because of the propulsive rhythm, but because we know how he feels. He doesn't let that negativity keep him down, though; the appropriately-titled track "The Resurrectionists" inspires us to rise up over our flaws and begin anew. That tune's drum beat and spoken-word verses feels like a call to action, that our future is up us, and we can't waste away in the doldrums of self-recrimination. However, not all the songs found on FTHC find their intended targets. Many, in true punk fashion, are three minutes or less, which leaves the listener feeling stranded just as the song feels like it's beginning to blossom. "The Gathering" could be a real concert anthem, but there's not enough of it to be able to reach that level of success. Similarly, "My Bad" is, well, bad, to the extent that there's no real hook, so common to Frank's catalogue of songs, nothing to sink our claws into in order to keep with us after its not-even-two-minute run time. FTHC is at heart a hardcore album, but not in the way of The Clash or The Ramones; there's plenty of guitar-thrashing and shouting in anger, but it's the curveballs you're thrown that really makes it alternative. Ten albums in, Frank may not manage to make a perfect collection of songs, but if he did, then it would be the antithesis of hardcore. What he does succeed in doing, however, is continuing to tell his story; a tale we can all, in some way or another, connect with.