Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Talk from Frank

Frank Turner/Blah Blah Blah, Leicester Charlotte, 28th April

The support for this tour was supposed to be rising Medway Scene name Kid Harpoon but he found something better to do, which was disappointing because a) he's an interesting singer-songwriter we'd been keeping an eye on and b) it meant Blah Blah Blah were on in his place. "Jazz punk newer wave skiffle pop" says one write-up of the trio. Skiffle might be close enough, we suppose - it's very music hall, but music hall in the way people used to accuse Blur of being. And is there some byelaw of the Greater London new music scene that states 'observational' lyrics can only be delivered in an accent that would actually bring the Bow bells crashing down? They have a song called Death To Indie Disco, which is ironic given it sounds like the sort of reductive thing even the most obvious indie DJs would consider too beyond the obviousness pale.

A confession. Back when Frank Turner was singer with post-hardcore standard bearers Million Dead, I would use Charlie And The Propaganda Myth Machine from their 2003 debut album A Song To Ruin on message boards whenever the topic of awkward lyrics came up. It was all done in the most knowing sense, of course, as given they were celebrated by few at the time it's a song that makes sense in the context of the structure of the song and the band's own angry politicised approach, outside which, like many a lyric, it seems, well, odd. In his solo guise there's precious little sign of "a GMTV gomulka", whatever one of those is; while still easily wound up by the state of the nation his acoustic-based writing touches a number of bases, confident and honest, self-deprecating as much as critiquing others and drily funny, even making a touching song out of the perennial trap of writing about being on the road away from loved ones. Billy Bragg's name is occasionally mentioned as a quick comparison, which isn't strictly accurate but bears much consideration, not least that they share a warm, chatty but always committed stage presence, completely at ease whether with three backing musicians or on his own, alternating between the two through the set, and like Bragg his punkier background in comparison to most singer-songwriters means he has the ability to really let go vocally when required. There may only be a good seventy people here but at least a third are singing along to everything bar the two new songs, one so new he hadn't got a title for it. You can see where such a following springs from - Turner is not only as good a solo singer as you'll find among the class of 2007, but surely very few are anywhere near as good live.


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