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Frank Turner
England Keep My Bones Julian Marszalek , June 15th, 2011 11:54

We're living in vicious and desperate times and the call has been raised for pop music to feed from the streets and articulate what's going on. So what do we get in response? A 'Ghost Town' for the new millennium? A 21st century 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck' perhaps? No, we get Frank bloody Turner and his excruciating blend of sub-sixth form politics, bleeding heart warbling and faux-matey persona, that's what. Like, cheers.

Turner's inexorable rise from former metal grunter to troubadour to being on the threshold of crossing over to a wider audience is as mystifying as White Lies' continued existence and the Hosannas meted out to the faux rock & roll of The Vaccines. Admittedly, Turner's surface appeal of the everyman folkie who schlepps from one venue to the next, wears his heart where his cuffs should be and replaces emotion with chest-beating hollering is easy to fathom. But dig a little deeper and what becomes apparent is that there's a whole lot of nothing going on.

Listening to this, Turner's fourth album, the regular comparisons to Billy Bragg seem less pertinent; really, the name most redolent of Turner's pseudo posturing is that of hapless would-be revolutionary Rick from 80s sitcom The Young Ones. To hear Turner holler "Hear ye! Hear ye! Punks and skins and journeymen!" on the unintentionally hilarious 'I Still Believe' is to stifle a guffaw and be reminded of Rick ranting about "punks and skins and rastas" gathering to form a shrine to the fallen People's Poet. Adding to the mocking laughter that greets this dross is Turner's ironic assertion "that something simple as rock & roll would save us all" when the song is about as rock & roll as any of Simon Cowell's sagging moobs.

There's something bogus about Turner and suspicions are raised during the laboured hectoring of 'Glory Hallelujah'. The double negative of "There never was no God" is cringe-worthy enough, and one feels for his former English master who is doubtless considering a swim in the Thames with concrete blocks for flippers, but the lack of subtlety employed by Turner is unforgivable. While a band like The Flaming Lips can tackle the issue of the existence of God with grace, wit and musical flair (see 'Waiting For Superman' for evidence), Turner bludgeons with ham-fisted sloganeering and hollow over-emoting.

Similarly, the likes of 'Wessex Boy' are hard to swallow thanks to a forced lyric and delivery that suggests someone straining after a heavy curry; elsewhere, 'I Am Disappeared' feels more like case of voyeurism rather than empathetic observation.

Each generation gets the heroes it deserves but how fucked up or desperate do people have to be to accept this vacuous posturing as the Voice of Dissent? Frank Turner is as convincing as David Cameron professing a love for The Jam or The Smiths but at least with the Prime Minister what you see is what get: an oily huckster who knows what side his bread's buttered on. Turner just happens to wear dirty boots and a hoodie but that's still nowhere near enough to make a convincing case in this poseur's favour other than laying a stake for worst album of the year.