Frank Turner. Image via BBC
Over the last couple of days on Upside Down Shark, I’ve been counting down my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs (Here are parts 1 and 2 if you missed them). Today, we’ll cross the halfway point of the list ahead of starting the Top 20 tomorrow. Let’s get on with it then, here are numbers 30 through 21!
30. Four Simple Words – Tape Deck Heart
‘I want to dance. I want to dance. I want lust and love and a smattering of romance’
‘Four Simple Words’ is a song that heads in so many different directions that eclectic almost doesn’t work as a descriptive. This is effectively a Frank Turner song if it had been sent to the band Queen to arrange and record. It takes in several varying styles, starting with Frank singing mostly solo over a piano, before kicking in to a Punk Rock headbanger for the majority of its runtime. On top of this, there are moments where the backing vocals come in and give an almost barbershop quartet feel to the proceedings.
The lyrics are about heading out to a show and just generally wanting to move about and have a good time. The song is perhaps best known in the live setting, wherein it is regularly played as the final song of the night, the lyrics and ‘I want to dance’ refrain proving to be an incredibly apt and euphoric note to end on.
29. The Real Damage – Sleep Is for The Week
‘I started the night with all my friends and I ended up alone, oh yes I started out so happy, now I’m hungover and down’
Frank has recently said that ‘The Real Damage’ is the first proper solo song he wrote, and therefore the fact it is the opening track on his first album feels even more appropriate. The song’s lyrics deal with a Saturday night of fun and excess, then waking the next morning to find yourself in a room full of people you don’t know, and slowly realising that you actually missed the entirety of Sunday too.
If I were to pick 5 songs to illustrate Frank’s music to someone who had never heard of him, this would definitely be one of them. Of the many songs that feature just Frank and his acoustic, this is the quintessential one as far as I’m concerned.
28. Hits & Mrs – The Third Three Years
‘She brings me hangover hugs and calm down kisses, she is my first and my last, she’s all my hits and my Mrs’
This song originally appeared on the ‘Losing Days’ EP before becoming far more easily findable on ‘The Third Three Years’, and to my taste it’s the best of the many original recordings/B-Sides that these compilations are best known for. Lyrically, it’s a love song to a woman who seems to put up with more than she really needs to.
It’s an incredibly jaunty track, and even features a prominent kazoo section in what might be one of my favourite instrumental breaks across Frank’s discography.
27. Plain Sailing Weather – Tape Deck Heart
‘Just give me one fine day of plain sailing weather and I can fuck up anything’
As with most of the songs on ‘Tape Deck Heart’, ‘Plain Sailing Weather’ deals with the aftermath of a breakup. In this instance however, it’s an incredibly sour, introspective look at yourself. Blaming yourself for it being over whether it’s your fault or not. It’s a song that shows anger in a way that isn’t outwardly aggressive so much as just beating yourself up inside, and dragging yourself into a place where you believe you can do no right.
Among Frank’s discography, I’d say this song is probably one of the least palatable he has on offer. It’s got a catchy chorus in as much as it’s a lyric that will definitely get stuck in your head, but as far as the rest of the song, whilst not going out of its way to keep you at distance, it’s a song that’s perhaps designed to make you feel at least a little uncomfortable, which is somewhat unique for Frank.
26. The Fastest Way Back Home – Poetry of The Deed
‘After all, getting half of what you wish for isn’t so rare’
Much like ‘A Love Worth Keeping’ from Frank’s previous album (number 36 on my list), this is a song featuring one of my personal highlights when it comes to Frank’s vocals. Also, a lot like the aforementioned song, the vocal really excels in ‘The Fastest Way Back Home’ in the last minute or so of its runtime.
In fact, in more ways than one the 2 songs are very similar. An electric guitar line comes in over the main acoustic rhythm which elevates the scope of the song in both cases. Both songs deal with missing a loved one and wanting to get home as soon as you can, this song obviously doing so in a much more head-on way. This one, however, has a far more joyous and upbeat tone to it which just resonates with me a little more.
25. Mittens – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘I once wrote you love songs. You never fell in love. We used to fit like mittens but never like gloves’
And so, we’ve crossed over into the top half of my list, and we start with what some people might consider the first ‘proper’ song from PS4NP to appear on my list (but for real, ‘The Angel Islington’ isn’t just an intro track and shouldn’t be viewed as such). ‘Mittens’ is a song dealing with ending a relationship in which your worth hasn’t truly been valued by your partner. Look, I’m not gonna say the lyrics to this one are game-changing or anything, I know to some people they may even be downright cringey, but I just really love a metaphor and I think this one gives a very good visual.
This song is the first of Frank’s to feature a horn section, something which he apparently had to fight for. I’d say it pays off astoundingly well, and they appear on a musical background that feels confident and almost defiant at times. I’d also like to highlight the backing vocals across this song, which back up the lead vocal brilliantly. And a final note, Frank’s shouted delivery of ‘I wanna fit like gloves’ may sound silly when you think about it, but I think the emotion conveyed is a little bit incredible to be honest.
24. Out of Breath – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘When you meet death be out of breath and say you’re pleased to see him ‘cause you’re tired’
‘Out of Breath’ is an absolute rager, roaring out of the gates almost immediately and only letting up for breath very briefly at the bridge. Barely clocking in over 2 minutes, this song is basically a 2 minute mosh-fest, and is a song that will likely be listed as an example in the dictionary beneath the words Folk-Punk.
Lyrically, the idea behind this song is that you should live life so hard that when death finally comes for you, you should feel you’ve lived far more than your fair share. On top of this, it adds the message that worrying about the things that don’t really have much bearing on your life isn’t all that worth doing.
23. Silent Key – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘The darkness up above led me on like unrequited love, while all the things I need were down here in the deep blue sea’
‘Silent Key’ is about 50% factual and 50% a fictional imagining of something that could have happened around the factual part of the song. The song tells the story of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who died aboard the Challenger space shuttle when it exploded only 2 minutes after blast off, or as some believe (Frank included), 2 minutes and 45 seconds after the explosion when the capsule hit water.
In spite of this sounding like a bit of a downer of a song, to me it actually feels quite uplifting, the chorus especially feeling surprisingly warm considering the subject matter. It also features a guest appearance by singer-songwriter Esme Patterson in the role of Christa. I must admit, I didn’t much care for this track until seeing it played live a few years ago with Esme there to sing her part, which I’d definitely recommend looking up.
22. Rivers – England Keep My Bones
‘I traced the shorelines through a thousand histories to remind me, an island is my home’
‘Rivers’ feels a lot more Folky than it actually is, mostly based upon the driving acoustic guitar line, and partly because the production on Frank’s vocal almost makes it echo, which adds something of an old-timey feel to it, at least to my ears.
I’m not someone who is particularly excited about being British. I don’t have much in the way of national pride, and I rarely feel particularly patriotic. Frank’s music is one of the few things that has ever elicited any form of lingering feeling of pride about being British. This song is the prime example for me, I can’t help but listen to it and find myself at least feeling a little bit like the words speak to me in that way. Not a feeling I like all that much in truth, but I do really love the song!
21. The Opening Act of Spring – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘Please forgive me for the things that I must do. Though I have hurt so many people, it was never my intention to hurt you’
At its heart, this is a song about wanting to get up off your feet and having an idea of the way forward, but having cold feet about getting up and doing these things – in particular, knowing that to better yourself, you’re likely going to have to do some things the people around you aren’t going to like.
A particularly notable moment for me is the bridge section in which Frank’s lead vocal is underscored by a backing vocal closely following his, just an octave or so lower. It’s a catchy little song that doesn’t really have a lot of layers to it in truth, but who said a song has to be complex to be great?
And with that, we reach the end of part 3 and the third 10 entries of my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs. How are our lists comparing so far? I’d imagine by this point there’s a good number of differences! Come back tomorrow as we arrive at the Top 20 with numbers 20 through 11!
(EDIT: You can find Part 4 of my list here)