Frank Turner. Image via BBC
I first became aware of Frank Turner in June of 2010, when he was the opening support act for Green Day at Wembley Stadium. There aren’t many stages in the world more prestigious than that, yet even with his early evening slot (pretty sure he came on around 5:30PM), he managed to take a crowd of people who likely didn’t know him and get them singing, dancing and jumping along with him, myself included. I’d like to say I went home afterwards and dug into his back catalogue (then just 3 albums strong), but I didn’t. I went home and just played even more Green Day for countless hours.
It wasn’t until nearly 3 years later that Frank really came onto my radar again. I remember listening to Radio 1 the evening that his new single, ‘Recovery’, first premiered. I loved it. The album ‘Tape Deck Heart’ followed a month or so later, and whilst I wasn’t sold on it immediately, it became the gateway which led to my love for Frank Turner now. It’s almost definite that I listen to his music more regularly nowadays than some of my other favourite artists, even Green Day! He ranks as one of my favourite songwriters, one of my favourite musicians and honestly just one of my favourite people.
Now, I’m a person who enjoys ranking things. Not necessarily for any purpose or for anyone else, but in my head I like to have a general idea of what my favourite films are, favourite bands, and of course favourite songs by those bands. Truthfully, I’ve always struggled to do this with Frank’s music, mostly because I love it all so much and it’s incredibly hard to pick favourites. The thought of doing a Top 10 was always tantalising to me, but when I came to try and select the songs for it, the magnitude of what I was attempting became clear to me – I listened to all of his released music and made what turned out to be a shortlist of 72 songs for potential inclusion!
With that number in mind, it became obvious that a Top 50 would be easier to make, and so that’s what I’m doing here. I managed to remove 22 songs from the shortlist, and I’ve thought long and hard about which ones I love more than the others remaining in that list. I’m a little ashamed to say how difficult it was, I mean in reality it’s not that hard to listen to a bunch of songs and decide which I like best, is it?
So, over the next 5 days here on Upside Down Shark, I’ll be counting down my Top 50 Frank Turner songs in groups of 10 every weekday. Now, this is my personal top 50, and I’ll make it clear that I didn’t consult anyone else on the UDS team for this, it’s all me. As well as this, it’s likely my tastes will be a little different than yours, dear reader, so if any of your favourites don’t appear in the coming days don’t feel too disheartened (there’s definitely a couple of notable omissions that might make people scratch their heads). The fact is I love almost everything Frank has put his name to, and so whilst they may not be in this list, the likelihood is if I had put the list together another day they may well have appeared. Except for ‘English Curse’. I don’t really like that one.
Without any further ado, let’s get on with it. Here’s numbers 50-41 of my Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs:
50. Wessex Boy – England Keep My Bones
‘There’s something about coming back to your hometown again, the place where you grew up and where you found your firmest friends’
Straight off the bat, this is a song that a lot of people will question appearing so early in the list. In all fairness, there’s a good number of songs that could have had this spot instead of ‘Wessex Boy’, but this is the way the dice fell on the day.
‘Wessex Boy’ is a song about returning to your hometown having grown up and long after all your friends have moved on. What’s really being conveyed here is that in spite of having left and perhaps not looking too fondly on your old home, there’s something about returning that just feels oh so familiar in a comforting way.
It’s a song that’s been played live countless times since release, and it’s got a lovely feel good vibe to it perfect for something like a family picnic in the park.
49. Going Nowhere – Be More Kind
‘I’ll be there. In there like swimwear, I’m going nowhere’
‘Going Nowhere’ is a reasonably bare-bones song appearing midway through Frank’s latest album, ‘Be More Kind’. But don’t let that opening sentence fool you, I really love it. It’s carried by a pretty subdued vocal from Frank, with lyrics aimed at a partner to let them know that no matter what happens, you’re not going to leave them.
The track features a suitably jangly guitar line throughout, with just the standard band instrumentation to back it up. Around halfway through, a wonderful but understated bass line comes in and just elevates the calming nature the song has already got going for it. It’s a great song to just chill out to.
48. Oh Brother – Tape Deck Heart
‘Time it will change us but don’t you forget, you are the only brother I’ve got’
‘Oh Brother’ is a song about platonic male affection, and that’s an explanation from Frank himself. The song was written for Ben Dawson, the drummer in Frank’s previous Post-Hardcore band, Million Dead. My favourite thing about this song is the guitars, it’s bolstered by an excellent guitar riff and features a blistering guitar solo that frequently gets stuck in my head.
There is a downside to this song however, mostly noticeable when listening to it on its own or in a playlist, outside the confines of the album. The final 35 seconds or so of the song serves as an interlude/segue into the album’s closing track, ‘Broken Piano’, which is a markedly different sounding song (still a good one, mind) and does drag this one down a little for me unfortunately.
47. 1933 – Be More Kind
‘Don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn’
‘1933’ is a song on the subject of entering horrific times without necessarily realising just how bad things are about to get. Without wanting to touch on politics too much in this article, the year 2016 was weighing particularly on Frank when this song was written, and the comparison is made here to the year 1933 when the Nazis first took power in Germany. I’m sure you can draw your own parallels and conclusions.
It’s obviously a raging track with an incredibly aggro chorus telling the listener to wake up and realise the potential troubles ahead so that perhaps something can be done about them. Great song for a mosh in the live setting too, if that’s your thing (it’s definitely mine).
46. The Way I Tend to Be – Tape Deck Heart
‘Love is about all the changes you make and not just 3 small words’
Still in the lower portion of my Top 50 and here’s another fan-favourite song that has only just crept in. I really do love this song, and there have been times in my life where the lyrics and melodies have been so incredibly powerful to me. I am currently however in a period of my life where these words don’t mean quite as much to me personally, and so the song has dropped off a little way in my estimation.
But with that said, there’s a lot to love here. Everyone’s noticed the Mandolin line through the song, it’s probably the most prominent thing within the song. But how many of you have noticed the banjo? It’s not quite omnipresent but it’s definitely there for most of the song, not even drowned out. Once you know it’s there and find it, it’s something you’ll notice every time. Or at least, I do anyway.
It’s a beautiful song on the subject of missing your ex after a breakup. I think that’s a sentiment most of us have been through at some point in our lives, right?
45. Thatcher Fucked the Kids – The First Three Years
‘And all the rich folks act surprised, when all sense of community dies’
So, remember a couple of songs ago when I mentioned not wanting to touch on politics too much. Yeah. So…this is a song about not being happy with the way previous governments did their job. This song first appeared on Frank’s ‘Campfire Punkrock’ EP, although is now most easily found on the compilation album ‘The First Three Years’.
I think, thematically, it is actually possible to draw links between this song (one of his earliest released) and some of the themes on latest release ‘Be More Kind’, especially with the aforementioned ‘1933’. The anger at a world that is clearly not in a good place and the people who choose not to question it until it’s too late.
(For what it’s worth, I think the lyrics to this song are brilliant and I do agree with them.)
44. St Christopher Is Coming Home – Love Ire & Song
‘Yeah whatever else may be, I will not forget my friends’
This is a song that never really stuck with me until the last year or so, but now that it has it remains incredibly poignant to me. The lyrics mainly deal with struggling to find time to hang out with your friends, which I think we all start to deal with as we reach our mid-twenties. It’s a harsh reality.
Above all else though, the main message is that, no matter how often you do get to see your friends, you won’t forget them and hope they won’t forget you either. All of this over a jolly musical canvas that would likely be right at home on a supermarket advert in the Summer, and a ‘la la la’ sing along to finish it all off.
43. The Angel Islington – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘By the waters of the Thames, I resolve to start again’
This one may seem an odd inclusion, but whilst it may seem like a quaint album intro track to most, to me it’s a statement of intent for the album that follows. PS4NP is my favourite Frank Turner album, and just straight up one of my favourite albums to tell the truth, and this song’s lyrics set out the start of a journey that the rest of the album takes in.
Which isn’t to say it’s a concept album, it’s not. But the songs are linked, for the most part, by the theme of picking up the pieces after a dark time and trying to get better (Whey!). It’s just Frank and his acoustic guitar with introspective lyrics about the moment of realising it’s time to do something about your misery. I often catch lines from the song floating through my head throughout the day.
42. Blackout – Be More Kind
‘We can’t just turn around and close the door on a world that’s asking uneasy questions’
‘Blackout’ compares the times we are currently living in to a blackout. Seems pretty simple, but there’s a lot more going on here really, and the main message is that we should all come together if we are ‘afraid of the darkness’ and try to work our way out together.
All this happens over a swelling synthesiser line during the chorus, which when I first heard it was a little bit too far removed from Frank’s typical style for me. Now, it’s potentially the thing I love most about the song, alongside the aforementioned lyrics and the electric guitar line that comes in during the final verse.
41. Romantic Fatigue – Sleep Is for The Week
‘So when I get out my guitar tonight to do what I do, remember, I probably didn’t write this song for you’
‘Romantic Fatigue’ is a song that is in the more typical Frank Turner style – just Frank, his acoustic guitar and his backing band. No bells or whistles, just a band playing their song. Lyrically, it’s actually a really interesting topic. It deals with having to play songs on the subject of romance to new potential partners whom the song wasn’t written about.
There’s not a lot more to say about this one, it’s a just a good song with a nice riff and some lyrics that give you something to ponder over.
And there we have it, the first 10 entries of my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs. Any included so far you’re surprised to see (I’m sure there are)? What songs would you include in these respective slots? Genuinely interested to see how potentially different these lists could be. At any rate check back tomorrow for numbers 40 through 31 of my list!
(EDIT: You can find part 2 of my list here)