Frank Turner “Undefeated”

Xtra Mile Recordings / Orchard, 2024

Barnstorming post-punk with intelligent and thoughtful lyrics.

Album cover artwork for "Undefeated" by Frank TurnerIf you have not been to a Frank Turner concert, it is something to behold. He is up there giving it “110 percent”, as they say, backed by his band The Sleeping Souls. The young audience absolutely roars him on, chanting along to his songs- they know all the words. So if one says that this album, with its energetic guitars and raucous singalong choruses, carries on this tradition, then that is a very good thing.

The second track, ‘Never Mind The Back Problems’, reminiscent of The Pogues, is a homage to punk- Turner is a great fan. However, while his music has the energy of punk and you can hear echoes of bands like The Buzzcocks at times, it has more of an eighties feel, for example in some of the drums and keyboard phrases. And where punk, mostly produced by young people in their teens and twenties, had simple passionate words of anger at the world or of angst, Turner’s are more thoughtful and complex. It’s not The Ramones.

He has now hit his forties and much of the album has a “looking back” feel to it. This is particularly evident in ‘Ceasefire’ where he has a conversation with his fifteen-year-old self, who he thinks would have been disappointed with some of how he is now. But it is a plea to himself for forgiveness as he is longing for some peace from his self-criticism. He has documented his mental health struggles in the past and these come up again on ‘Somewhere Inbetween’ where he sings “I have been waiting for someone to say they’ve found out I’m a fake” and that he is “a stranger to myself”. ‘Pandemic PTSD’ deals with the mental trauma of lockdown and the complexity of his feelings about it.

‘East Finchley’ and ‘Letters’ look back to past relationships, with the latter telling of a girl who he used to write to. But whereas most rock talks of lust and passion, here Turner tells of wanting emotional intimacy and understanding and of the pain when that finishes.

Turner is fiercely independently minded – this comes out in a number of tracks. ‘No Thank You For The Music’ kicks off with “I don’t want to be in any gang that you’re in”. He has had sympathy for anarchism in the past and this is seen in ‘The Leaders’ which sounds musically a bit like his great friend Billy Bragg. Here he states “The leader’s not your friend” but urges grassroots action which perhaps fits in with his stated support for unions and the good that they have done. He has had tough criticism, including death threats, for past political statements and deals with this in the rousing opener ‘Do One’.

Other tracks include ‘Show People’, a tribute to his troubadour profession, and ‘On My Way’, a gentler moving love song to his partner who keeps things going while he is off troubadoring. ‘I’m In Love With The Girl From The Record Shop’ is just good fun. The album finishes with the title track, an almost-ballad with piano, where he reflects on midlife “Stood in the middle of life, love and loss” and concludes that there are things to be said for surviving this far despite disappointments.

Turner’s combination of memorable songs with great melodies and choruses allied to insightful lyrics make this a very strong album that stands out from the crowd. It is a real credit to him that he can still come up with the goods after all this time.

9/10
9/10

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