Folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner has taken on increasingly broader themes for his most recent releases. 2013’s ‘Tape Deck Heart’ dealt largely with heartbreak and emotional turmoil while 2015 follow up ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’ acted as an inspirational guide for those suffering from depression. His latest, and seventh studio release ‘Be More Kind’ carries the timely message that we should all start being a little nicer to each other.
With an arena tour on the horizon, it’s clear that much of the material here was written with that in mind. Opener ‘Don’t Worry’ is full of what sounds like processed handclaps which are woven into a glossy, radio friendly production. If it is a little too stadium pop by numbers, these new elements collide rather wonderfully on ‘Blackout’. Powered by a sumptuous, bubbling synth led chorus, Turner confesses “I’m afraid of the darkness too”. It’s a surprising highlight.
‘1933’ is a welcome return to the furious, frenetic punk of Turner’s earlier career but it feels slightly out of place on an album that preaches kindness and compassion. ‘Make America Great Again’ is another track which attempts to grapple with the madness of the modern world and more specifically, Trump’s America. However, the subject matter is only really investigated at surface level and fails to add anything new or fresh to the debate. With that being said, it's still difficult not to get drawn into the track’s romantic sentiment of “making racists ashamed again”.
Unfortunately, issues with quality control result in a record that, even at 49 minutes long, feels particularly bloated by needless filler. Despite being included on 2017’s career spanning ‘Songbook’, the distinctly underwhelming 80’s soft rocker ‘There She Is’ appears here also. The aptly titled ‘Going Nowhere’ is similarly tedious but ‘Common Ground’ is perhaps the worst offender, giving a whiff of a songwriter simply going through the motions.
There are more than enough pleasing moments to prevent ‘Be More Kind’ from being a failure and it’s certainly not his worst album by any means - that mantle belongs to the miserable snooze fest of ‘Tape Deck Heart’. It’s the sound of an artist navigating the wilderness for a new voice and for the most part, he succeeds in doing so. Turner’s inconsistent seventh LP may not compare with the likes of ‘Love Ire & Song’ and ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ but a willingness to experiment paired with a deceptively simple message make it a decent, if unremarkable addition to his stellar back catalogue.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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