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Frank Turner Frank Turner
Album: Be More Kind
Label: Xtra Mile
Tracks: 13

Once more unto the breach, he quotes. In recent times we've lived vicariously through Frank and his songs. 'Tape Deck Heart' his record about change that might occasionally be heartbreaking led to a defiance in 'Positive Songs For Negative People'; 'Be More Kind' has a suggestion of simplicity about it, not least of all with the direct message of the title. It could never be that simple though with Frank as he's intelligent enough to make simplicity look simple in a clever way and never with any less passion or commitment; writing as if no-one were going to listen has always been his philosophy. It the way he tends to be.

Like the message of Eckhart Tolle's 'The Power Of Now', he seems to have had a reawakening; the sort of revelation that says "it's not rocket science." More love and less ire and plenty of songs that reveal his current position. The origins of having an album written and then reading poetry by Clive James that didn't quite tilt the world on its axis, but saw the sort of shift that jolted him into making a fresh start. "I should have been more kind" the phrase goes, and no, it's not rocket science but more like the bleeding obvious.

It's a shift that's resulted in possibly as varied a palette as we've had from Frank for some time, or even ever. Opportunities to roar along in the traditional manner are at a premium - the early release of 1933 with its familiar pacey delivery and "I don't know what's going on anymore" tagline a classic example - there's an ambition in the arrangements which show a willingness to take risks, while still providing enough of the tried and trusted. The preview of the rumbling 'There She Is' from the 'Songbook' album gave little away as the hints of electronic pop in 'Blackout', the gentle album opener 'Don't Worry' and the slowly plodding title track. The gospel tinge that concludes the more typical drive of 'Brave Face' and it's optimistic message - "if we have to do this, let's do it smiling") - proves more uplifting and just when you think we're on for a Trump bashing tirade on 'Make America Great Again', the genuine attempt at positivity is 'be more kind' personified encased in a deep buzzing synth.

The more introspective nature of the closing pairing of 'The Lifeboat' and 'Get It Right' bring things full circle on an album that finds Frank Turner older and wiser. While it may be more of a slow burner in the context of his library of work, it's one where he's perhaps in his most comfortable skin.

Mike Ainscoe