Having never listened to Frank Turner’s music, I went into Positive Songs for Negative People without a clue of what I was getting into. I noticed he was a punk rocker turned folk singer, but that small piece of information still wasn’t enough to prepare me for the album.
What I found was… a lot of different things. Songs in various tones, speeds and not a whole lot of coherence. The transitions from song to song were smooth enough, but I never realized that his previous work would have an impact on his actual music.
For example, the opening song, “The Angel Islington”, is a soft, folky song that almost sounds like the definition of modern folk music. But then, the song’s end quickly transitions into “Get Better” which is loud, and sounds a bit more like punk-infused rock than anything else.
That doesn’t make either song, or any of the songs that vary so heavily from each other, bad, but it is a pill to swallow at the start. It quickly becomes apparent that the album doesn’t have a direct and consistent sound or theme, although Turner’s lyrics don’t lack that direct nature.
Turner’s style of lyrics are very straightforward, and the comparisons and metaphors he makes take a backseat to the majority of simplicity that makes up his lyrics. Once again, not necessarily a bad thing, but Turner isn’t who you want to go to for multi-layered music or subtlety.
This is likely due to his punk influence, which requires that style. It’s carried over into this album at the very least, although I don’t know how much it influences his previous releases.
Personally, the highlights of the album are the aforementioned “Get Better” and “Silent Key”, the second-to-last song on the album. The quality of music is consistent throughout the album, with it constantly delivering either a solid folk song or a decent rock song.
The only major complaint I have with this album is how similar it sounds to other groups. For an album that has varying types of songs, a lot of the songs sound similar to other groups that produce music in the genres.
“The Angel Islington” sounds something straight out of a Bon Iver album, “Get Better” sounds like an Arctic Monkeys joint. “Love Forty Down” sounds like Mumford and Sons. “The Next Storm” sounds like the latest two albums from The Decemberists.
It might just be me, but a lot of these songs differ in style but not from anything that hasn’t already come out or is currently coming out. Turner fails to stand out on a lot of songs, save for a few of the songs that have a fast, electric-guitar heavy pace.
I’m not really sure what to make of this album. I enjoyed it fine, but it’s obvious that it’s not anything special. It doesn’t have a unique sound and the drastic changes from one song to the next doesn’t add anything, it just puzzles me.
Turner didn’t make a bad album, he just made a very average one.