Frank Turner – Be More Kind

By Sam Craddock-Camp

“I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late”- Clive James

It is with this quote that prolific British singer-songwriter Frank Turner, has drawn influence for his seventh studio record “Be More Kind”. It’s a wonderful, yet somber statement, one that laments a life lived without greater understanding and empathy for your fellow man. Over the course of his previous six albums, Turner has cemented himself as one of the most unflinchingly honest songwriters of his generation. His last three albums dealt with themes of English identity on “England Keep My Bones”, the breakdown of a relationship on “Tape Deck Heart”, and overcoming adversity on “Positive Songs for Negative People”. On “Be More Kind”, he reflects upon the current state of the world, both social and political, and how we have defined ourselves by what divides us, and the struggle to find a middle ground.

Musically, this is easily Turner’s most diverse record to date. Aside from the rollicking “1933”, a thunderous rally cry to those unable to learn from the mistakes of previous generations, “Be More Kind” is a much more gentle collection of songs. A good majority of the distorted guitar has been stripped away, replaced by a much heavier emphasis on Matt Nasir’s keyboard work, Ben Lloyd’s creative guitar effects and mandolin, plus the occasional harp. While the delivery may have softened, none of the passion and sincerity that Turner is known for has diminished, and it’s refreshing to see a songwriter still able to convey his infuriation at the world in his own tried and tested formula.

With opening track “Don’t Worry”, Turner is in familiar territory with a slow-burning campfire singalong. The delicately plucked guitar, the clapped rhythm, and the beautifully placed mandolin, sets the scene and the tone for the record, and it’s easily the most overtly hopeful song across it’s runtime. The aforementioned “1933” is the closest we get to anything of his previous work, and although it stands out a sore thumb with the rest of the album, it’s still brilliant to hear the rowdy punk influence be at the forefront again.

“Little Changes” is the most commercial track of Turner’s career since “The Way I Tend To Be” from “Tape Deck Heart”, but it only showcases his exceptional ear for melody, and it’s infectiously joyous throughout. Sure, you can hear the collective eye-rolling of his old punk fanbase, but punks be damned, the man knows how to write a pop song. Title track “Be More Kind” is his soothing mission statement, and it’s a perfect summation of Turner’s growth as a songwriter. He’s evolved beyond the punk-rock traveller of “Love, Ire, and Song”, into an artist that can mix social commentary with heartfelt sentiment, while always approaching the subject from a very personal perspective.

“There She Is” is one of the stand-out tracks on the album, not just from Turner’s stunning, emotional vocal delivery, but because it’s the one song on the album that feels like a progression of his story that began back on “England Keep My Bone”’s “Redemption”. He wrote of his regret of becoming the antagonist in his story, and through the following two records, he deals with demons that plagued him. Yet these demons forged him into the man he is today, standing in front of a woman reflecting on how he came out the other side a better person, and saying “There she is, isn’t she everything, to me.”.

“Be More Kind” is a worthy addition to an already stellar back catalogue. It may not feel as blood-pumping as his more fast-paced early work, and it may not be the collection of life stories from the troubled troubadour of East London, but it is the work of a gifted songwriter expanding his perspective to include everyone from both sides of the socio-political divide.

“Be more kind my friends, try to be more kind.”.

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