I know, I know. I’m writing about something that isn’t metal — what a shocker. At this point, me writing about not-metal is like Willem Dafoe playing a crazy person in a movie, or LeBron James going HAM in the playoffs — like, why would you expect anything else? Well, yeah…so far this year, metal as a whole hasn’t quite done it for me yet. (With some exceptions, of course.) But you know what has done it for me? This new Frank Turner album, Be More Kind, which dropped on Friday. So, let’s jump in.
For those who aren’t familiar, Turner is the former frontman of UK post-hardcore band Million Dead. Since the band broke up in 2005, he’s released seven folksy-punk-styled studio albums on his own and played nearly 2,200 concerts. (Yep — 2,200. Eat your heart out, 1980s Iron Maiden.) I’ve just bought tickets to see Turner and his backing band, the Sleeping Souls, for the sixth time — only 3/10 of a percent of his current total, but still more than I’ve seen any other artist. If someone were to ask me who my favorite artist of my era is, this dude would be it without question.
Still, every now and again, even your favorite artists find themselves at a point where they need to shake things up. Be More Kind results from Turner’s arrival at that point both musically and lyrically, and feels all the more refreshing for how successfully he navigated through both components.
Where 2015’s Positive Songs for Negative People occasionally felt like a bit of a sonic rehash, Kind sees him operating on a new slate. He’s sanded some of the punk edge off his sound and embraced an almost “poppy” side to his songwriting, bringing in everything from nimble electronic rhythms (“Common Ground”) to…what sounds like glockenspiels? (“Little Changes”) To his credit, these adjustments slot in seamlessly with the remnants of his established sound, and make for a pretty seamless listening experience.
But if Be More Kind is a departure musically, it’s an even greater one lyrically. After years of keeping his songwriting generally apolitical — okay, aside from the pointed early track “Thatcher Fucked the Kids” — Turner’s lyrics this time out fully lean into the chaos around us (social, political, environmental…you name it) and try to offer a light on the path forward. On songs like “1933,” that light takes on the form of a biting attack, with Turner warning listeners “don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn.” Others call for simpler approaches — “make compassion in fashion again,” “meet me in the middle” — that feel less like calls to arms and more like calls for peace.
Like all of us, Turner’s lyrics run the emotional gamut. We all lament the world around us. Sure, the world around us makes us all boil with rage at times, yet we’ve also all got moments where we think constructively about to make it better. The journey through this darkness may be long and winding, but it’s sure as hell rejuvenated Turner. And as such, Be More Kind feels like the perfect soundtrack for it.