England Keep My Bones
By Al Kaufman
Frank Turner loves two things; England and rock and roll. The folk punk rocker sings about both with wild abandon on his fourth CD, England Keep My Bones.
Turner sets the tone on the rousing opener, “Eulogy.” “Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury, but everyone can raise a glass and sing,” he opines. He goes on to shout, “On the day I die I’ll say: ‘At least I fucking tried.’” That’s who Turner is. He’s a man filled with passion and love. He appreciates the simple joys of life and he worships his guitar. He’s basically a louder Billy Bragg. In fact, if one substituted “Socialism” for “rock and roll” in “I Still Believe” – a great bar room rocker – it could easily be a new Bragg single.
But Turner has punk in his bones. “One Foot Before the Other,” a song in which Turner expresses his wish to be cremated and thrown into London’s drinking water so that he can be ingested by millions of Brits and watered onto their crops, has a heavy metal chorus that perfectly conveys Turner’s fervor. Turner is not afraid to rock, and his band, the Sleeping Souls, share in his unbridled enthusiasm. Many of his songs, such as “Peggy Sang the Blues” (about his grandmother) begin with just an angry guitar, but flourish into a full band assault.
There are times when Turner lets his folkie side out. “Rivers,” basically a love letter to England, sounds like old Fairport Convention, what with its fiddle, accordion and mandolin. It has a nice, old-timey feel. “English Curse,” an a capella tune, is a history lesson about King William and his son, Rufus. Due to Turner’s sheer ardor for all things British, these songs do not feel out of place next to the many sing along, hand clapping numbers, such as “If I Ever Stray,” that make up most of this magnificent collection.
The song getting the most press in the U.S. is the closing “Glory Hallelujah.” But the atheist anthem is basically just another passionate bar room sing-along anthem, complete with a six-person choir. Nice guy that he is, Turner scratches out on the liner notes next to the song, “With apologies to my more religious friends, and also my mother.” Such a nice boy.
But that’s the kind of guy Turner is. He sounds like an 18-year-old that has just found his voice. He has a lot to say, and he has the need to say it with the conviction of reformed alcoholic born-again Christian, except his message is that life is good, England is great, and who needs God when you have rock and roll. It’s a message that brings a smile, especially if you happen to have a pint in your hand.