Live Review: Frank Turner at Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Frank Turner Vancouver Commodore Ballroom
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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (show #2101)

w/ Band of Rascals and Trapper Schoepp

Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Frank Turner is in the middle of touring around America at the moment as a support act for Jason Isbell. But never one to disappoint fans, he stopped off in Vancouver for a standalone headline show to cater to his Canadian fanbase.

“We’re here in Vancouver for 15 hours, just to play for you lot!” he shouted, “This morning I was tired and hungover and was not in the mood to chat to Canadian border guards… but we’re here now!”

Band of Rascals

The local act Band of Rascals played a great opening set of blistering rock music with an edge of country. They threw themselves about of stage with abandon, yet retained enough control to stay tight and sang great harmonies. A few songs entered into ballad territory, reminding me of Stu Larsen during on softer part.

Trapper Schoepp

Second up was Trapper Schoepp, also signed to Xtra Mile, the same label as Turner. Just one kid with a guitar, a large mop of hair, and one hell of a voice. He played a bunch of songs from his latest EP, Bay Beach Amusement Park, which sent me into giggles. It’s not often that I hear serious songs about bumper cars or Elvis siting on theme park rides. Great as he was, his set started to drag when he played some slower numbers, although his vivacious energy and funny banter kept us awake between songs.

Frank Turner

Things have changed since I last saw Turner play in Wellington. The Commodore Ballroom was easily twice the size of Bodega and Meow, where I’ve seen him play previously.

Turner keeps track of ever show he’s played. Meow was #1666. Tonight was #2101. That’s close to 500 odd shows that he’s played in two years. No wonder the man has such a die hard following, considering how hard he works. He also has numerous new tattoos. Last time I saw him the violin f-holes on his forearms were relatively fresh. Now he has many others crowding his skin as well.

But despite the time past since I saw him last, the rules remained the same: #1 don’t be a dick – look after each other. #2 sing along.

Turner and his merry men of Sleeping Souls stop upon that stage and tore through everything we hoped for. At first it seemed that most of the set was drawn from the two most recent albums, Positive Songs for Negative People, and Tape Deck Heart. But throughout the night he drew a few songs from each album, hedging his bets with wanting to please fans both new and old.

PSFNP wasn’t released last time I saw Turner live, so it was interesting seeing how some of the tracks sounded live. In my album review, I’d written that “Out Of Breath” is “played at such a pace that it seems that the musicians are almost tripping over themselves”. Funnily enough, Turner demanded that the audience start a circle pit for that song, so I feel my description was surprisingly accurate, that the song was designed for people running around out of control.

“Mittens” was another surprise. Turner was solo onstage at this point, playing a few solo ballads. “Mittens” is a mostly soft song, building up towards the end. Live, its a different animal. Turner bellowed with all his might, red in the face. I never expected such a sweet song to be played so violently.

He also treated us to three new songs from the forthcoming album. This was the first headlining gig in a long time so I guess this was his chance to offer something new that he couldn’t do during supporting legs of someone else’s tour.

I thought it ironic that he sang a song entitled “Be More Kind” to a group of Canadians. For what I could gather, the next album has two major themes. Half of it is reactionary to the state of affairs in the world at the moment. One song is called “1933”, which I read as comparing some current world events to the rise of Hitler. But then there are some happy love songs – not a typical Turner song topic. He played one such track called “There She Is”.

One of the best parts of the night was when Turner called his longtime friend Alice onstage. “I haven’t seen you in a very long time” he explained to her, “and when I catch up with old friends I like to have a drink with them”. From stage he ordered two shots of whiskey from the bar, and asked that they be handed to the sound guy. “Alice, during this next song I need you to crowd surf back to the sound desk, get the whiskey, and crowd surf back to the stage without spilling a drop”.

It was so fun to see this mad challenge pulled off, with Alice precariously riding the sea of up-stretched arms with a shot glass in each of her hands. The two reunited onstage and sunk their respective drinks. “That was a bloody stupid idea”, Turner remarked “it’s like drinking during the middle of a cardio session!”

Towards the end of the set Turner made an announcement. “I’m ashamed to say that despite practicing every day of my life since I was a child, I’m still not good enough to play death metal. But we can still bring death metal to the show!” He asked the crowd to split in two, like Moses parting the red seas.

I turned to my friend wild eyed. “We’ve got to go! We’re going to die!” I told him, anticipating a wall of death.

Turns out I was wrong. Turner made a speech about how the world is divided at present, and how we need to come together and support each other. Instead of the infamous wall of death, he wanted to start a wall of hugs. As gimmicky as it was, it was a nice way to bring a crowd of strangers together.

I’ve recently been reading Turner’s autobiography, The Road Beneath My Feet. It has given me insight into his life, and the meanings behind many of his lyrics. Songs like Tell Tale Signs and Long Live The Queen are suddenly a lot sadder when you understand what they are about. But I think that’s a big aspect of Turner’s appeal – he’s relatable. He sings about the hurt in his life, the struggles and vulnerabilities. That’s why you have hardened punks in patched jackets showing up to a show that features men in white collared shirts playing mandolin. Because at the heart of the music, when you strip away the genres and the scene expectations, Frank Turner writes songs that give hope.

There’s nothing quite like seeing your favourite song played live [mine is “I Am Disappeared”]. I remember when I first saw Turner play, many years ago. It was wild seeing the man I’d listened to thousands of times stand ten metres in front of me and sing those same songs from a stage. And after seeing him for a third time, I can tell you that the rowdy, inclusive, heartfelt show he puts on only gets better each time.


Frank Turner links:

Website: http://frank-turner.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frankturnermusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FrankTurner
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frankturner
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/frankturner

 

Joseph James

An Ode To An Important Local Venue: Bar Bodega

Bodega Wellington
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Bodega

Bar Bodega hosts some of my most revered memories.

Florida punks Against Me! played there back in 2011, back when their front man was still a man. Sweat dripped from the ceilings as the crammed-in crowd tussled, swayed and shouted along to the songs. There were stage dives aplenty, but not many came off the stage. My friend Steve and I took turns boosting each other up. We cupped our hands near our knees for the other person to step onto and launch off.

I remember my first time witnessing a Guitar Wolf show. I’d seen Foo Fighters play in Auckland the night beforehand, and struggle to decide which band put on the better performance. Guitar Wolf were almost cartoonish – Japanese rockers fully buying into the stereotypes. They preferred to suffer under intense heat rather than ditch their leather jackets and sunglasses. There was thumb wrestling, human pyramids, and a LOT of noise. The music wasn’t that good, but never mind that, it was about the overall experience.

Cody ChessnuTT blessed us with his smooth, soulful R&B beats on the night of his 40th birthday. I had been awake for roughly 36 hours trying to juggle university assignments around work, but as exhausted as I was, it was worth staying awake late into that Monday night.

I’ve marvelled at my favourite singer Frank Turner as he spread the folk punk gospel from his pulpit, and was inducted into some other-worldly ritual when Killing Joke tried to set off the apocalypse from the stage.

Locals and internationals; punks, rockers, soul-singers, blues-players, beat-layers, rappers, wailers and crooners have all graced the stage, amongst many others. Look around the bar and you will see many records, photos, posters and backstage passes that lay testament to the many musical memories that still linger within the venue. Furthermore are the memories of first bar, from its original site on Willis Street 25 years ago.

Bodega has now followed the likes of Mighty Mighty, James Cabaret, and Puppies by closing up shop. May the memories remain long after the doors have shut.

 

Joseph James

2015 in Review – Live Music at Will Not Fade

Will Not Fade Logo jpeg
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What a year it has been! We’ve been blessed to have so many amazing bands to come to our shores this year, and we are just as lucky to have strong local talent that we can depend on seeing throughout the year as well. I’ve summarised below some of the highlights and letdowns of my year, concluding with a discussion of the live music scene.

The best shows of 2015

Jurassic 5 blew me away with their incredibly fun and interactive show. Great music, great showmanship.

Frank Turner has been one of my favourite artists for years now. There’s no way that I could see him play his rousing music and it not be a highlight of my year. It was a cool bonus to meet him and have a chat outside the venue after the show as well. His new album, released a few months later, was also excellent.

Image: Fergus Cunningham

This Will Destroy You. Image: Fergus Cunningham

I actually thought that Australian post-rockers sleepmakeswaves put on a far better set than the more established headliners This Will Destroy You. There was so much energy and joy on stage. Many post-rock acts just let their music do the talking, but sleepmakeswaves put on a show as well as playing great music.

Most insane show award would go to either powermetal lords Dragonforce or mathcore act Dillinger Escape Plan. Although both could be classed as metal bands, they are at different (extreme) ends of the spectrum. Both played at a packed out Valhalla, and both bands featured musicians who were ridiculously proficient at their instruments.

I finally got to see what I consider an original hardcore/punk band this year. I’ve seen OFF!, Misfits and Corrosion of Conformity in the past, but they may as well be covers band,featuring more ring-ins than original members. A group of us hired a van and drove up to Auckland to see Gorilla Biscuits play at The Kings Arms. I think it is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing one of those pioneering punk/hardcore groups live, and it was great. Such a fun and positive band.

It is always a pleasure seeing perennial local heroes Jakob and Beastwars (the two bands toured as a double bill), and I managed to see my favourites Shihad play three times this year (at Homegrown and AC/DC).

The set that Shihad played both nights. They also played the song "Pacifier" for the encore on Sunday.

The set that Shihad played both nights of Homegrown. They also played the song “Pacifier” for the encore on Sunday.

My last highlight was Declaration AD, although I say this with a hint of sadness. They released their final album (Sometimes It’s Us) earlier on in the year, along with the announcement that their time as a band was coming to an end. The lineup for their final show at Zeal included some of the best current punk/hardcore/metal acts in New Zealand.  Declaration played a mammoth 16 songs and finished on a high. They made a big impact, not only in Wellington, but also in the wider New Zealand hardcore scene.

Disappointments

Every show I attended in Auckland this year left me feeling disappointed.

It started off with Foo Fighters cancelling their intimate Town Hall show because a truck with their gear had en route, leaving them without the equipment they needed. My friends and I took the opportunity to see American rapper Freddie Gibbs  instead. Gibbs was brilliant, but making fans wait for hours just to see a short 40 minute set was disrespectful to those who paid good money to see him perform.

The following night wasn’t much better. The Foo Fighters weren’t bad, but it was nothing compared to their previous few NZ concerts. They had stopped trying, choosing instead to rest on their laurels. They included a handful of covers throughout the set that dragged, and I was bored and ready to go home well before they had finished. I was glad to see that Rise Against were on form though. I didn’t think much of their latest album, and their opening set wasn’t very long, but it was actually one of the better sets I’ve seen them play.

A month later I was up in Auckland again for Westfest. I was most excited to see grunge icons Soundgarden. They started off with my favourite song of theirs, “Spoonman”, and it sounded terrible. Frontman Chris Cornell’s voice sounded strained and the band couldn’t keep energy up. I ended up leaving halfway through their set, because a free ride back to where we were staying was more attractive than seeing one of my favourite bands struggling onstage. Thankfully my other drawcard, Faith No More, were great, and metal pioneers Judas Priest put on an outstanding show earlier in the day, making Westfest worth attending overall. Cornell came back to New Zealand at the end of the year and all the reviews I read were glowing, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a ticket to attend after he had put on such a dismal display at Westfest.

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More's Facebook page

Faith No More playing at Westfest in Auckland. Photo taken from Faith No More’s Facebook page

Wellington venues

Venue Shed 6 has been refurbished as an alternative to the infamous TSB Arena that it sits beside. I saw both Gary Clark Jr and Jurassic 5 both play there, and had no complaints either time. It’s a versatile space and I hope that it gets utilised more in the future.

I attended two concerts at the Westpac Arena this year, and I would hesitate to attend another there. I have no issue with Elton John’s show, but his fans were totally ripped off, being charged extortionate fees for limited visibility. Likewise, AC/DC put on a brilliant show, but when 40 minute delays left fans exposed in the cold wind and rain I doubt many present were happy about the choice of venue. Sound and visibility issues coupled with overpriced tickets and cramped seating do little to suggest value for money.

Robbie Williams played a successful show at the Basin Reserve in October, indicating that the Basin could be a better alternative as Wellington’s primary outdoor venue.

Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

Mogwai at James Cabaret. Image: Bradley Garner Photography.

At one time Wellington’s best live venue, James Cabaret really let things slip. Lack of adequate air conditioning and no passouts made it hard to cope with the hot overcrowded conditions, especially when shows ran later than advertised. It was a real let down during Nas and Run The Jewels. And I don’t know if it was the venue’s fault, but there were complaints made about the excessive noise levels at Mogwai. After a handful of bad experiences I was seriously considering if I ever wanted to attend the venue again. And then without warning, the venue closed. Gorillaz Sound System had been booked to play James Cabaret, but got switched to Bodega last-minute. That was the last I ever heard of the venue.

We still have the trusty old bars Bodega and San Fran, who tend to get most bands. Meow has also been hosting more big bands this year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t been to the new venue MOON in Newtown yet. I hope that the Town Hall will get revived one day, but from what I hear about the costs of earthquake restrengthening, it is too costly to be considered viable.

The festival scene

The established staples in the festival scene seem to be surviving. Homegrown promises to be exactly the same as it has always been. It’s almost the musical equivalent to the 7’s rugby tournament. Hipsterfest Laneway is potentially expanding next year. Raggamuffin promises to be a hit, with Wu Tang Clan announced as headliners.

Trusty old Big Day Out has experienced a rocky past few years, and has since been re-branded as Auckland City Limits, with affiliations to the similarly named Austin festival. It will be interesting to see how well ACL fares. Headliner Kendrick Lamar will be a major drawcard, and it is held later in the year, so won’t be competing against other festivals and events to the same degree.

It’s a risky time for promoters at the moment. Soulfest was cancelled last-minute due to poor ticket sales. New festival Mclaren Falls had to change venues due to complaints from locals. After the change of location they renamed as Echofest. And Echofest also cancelled and announced liquidation, leaving ticket holders potentially unable to get refunds.

Westfest16

The future of Westfest 16 is up in the air. NOFX have confirmed that they will not be coming.

Somewhat related, Australian festival Soundwave has ended. Promoter AJ Maddah has a history of dodgy dealings, and it sounds like the responsibility for the festival can be shared between Maddah and ticketing agency Eventopia. Fans are understandably upset, especially because neither party are willing to refund ticket holders. This has wider implications for live music in Austalasia, because it has undermined concertgoers faith in promoters and ticketing outlets. There is no way that Soundwave’s cancellation is a good thing, although some people are trying to crowdfund a Soundwave replacement called Legion.

It also places the future of Auckland heavy music festival Westfest in question. Westfest has ridden on the coattails of Soundwave for a few years now, offering very similar lineups. Westfest 14 and 15 both ran at a loss, and Westfest 16 had a noticably smaller lineup, reflecting and foreshadowing Soundwave’s issues. With many bands no longer travelling to Australia for Soundwave, it remains uncertain if they will travel further to New Zealand. However, despite being unprofitable, Westfest has done wonders to boost ODR Productions’ profile, and I have faith that whether they retain their festival or not, ODR will continue to organise most of the best shows for heavy music fans in New Zealand.

2016

2016 still looks bright. Wellington is offering their bi-annual Arts Festival, with acts like Sufjan Stevens and Death Cab For Cutie attending. I’m sure that we will have plenty of sideshows from Laneway and Byron Bays Bluesfest to look forward to as well.

Iron Maiden Book of Souls tour

David Dallas is playing at Victoria University O Week, and although I expect that will be awesome, I’m apprehensive about going to a gig that will likely feature a crowd of 17-year-old drunk first year students (probably dressed in togas as well). I’m also looking forward to seeing Iron Maiden play in Christchurch in April, and comedy/percussion show Blue Man Group in June.

 

What were the best shows you attended in 2015? And which ones are you looking forward to attending next year?

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People

Frank Turner Positive Songs for Negative People cover
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I wasn’t sure what to expect from folk-punk Frank Turner for his sixth album, Positive Songs For Negative People. His previous studio album, Tapedeck Heart, had some upbeat songs, but had an overall theme of heartbreak. A later B-sides collection followed suit, making me question is Turner had decided to forgo his punk heritage for a softer, folkier sound. But after he previewed a few new songs at his Wellington show on the last night of the tour earlier this year, I was satisfied that the new album would still have enough grit.

Opening track ‘The Angel Islington’ isn’t Frank Turner positive songs for negative peopleabout buying a blue property in a game of Monopoly. Instead, in his typically English style, Turner sings about cleansing himself in the river and promising to start over. He’d decided to brush himself off and push on after the melancholic previous album, with this song signalling the change in attitude. It’s an idyllic little acoustic track reminiscent of other folk songs he’s done in the past, but it’s also the least interesting song on the album. This makes the following song sound even better and louder by comparison.

‘Get Better’ is by far the best song on the album. Obviously it’s the most familiar song, having been available for many months, but that doesn’t undermine how good it is. It’s a real stomper that gets me so fired up every time I hear it. I rate it among the best he’s written.

Bad weather is used as an extended metaphor throughout the album. ‘The Next Storm’ is about getting outside and living life, rather than hunkering down and waiting the storm out. ‘The Opening Act of Spring’ covers similar themes, with less of a fighting spirit. Backed by jangly mandolin, Turner details his hope for forgiveness and a better life once the storm has passed. ‘Mittens’ is a ballad that uses the imagery of mittens and gloves to tell the story of how a relationship never quite fit right.

Fighting for quality of life is another central theme. ‘Out Of Breath’ is about outrunning Death, and it’s played at such a pace that it seems that the musicians are almost tripping over themselves. ‘Demons’ sends the message that it’s great to be alive, so fight the demons that try to drag you down.

The fighting metaphor is taken literally in the music video for ‘The Next Storm’, which shows Turner in the ring with American wrestler CM Punk.

For both “Josephine’ and ‘Silent Key’, Turner has used historic figures as a basis for the song, adding even greater depth to the lyrics. ‘Josephine’ is pretty infectious with the “woahs” and ‘Silent Key’ is catchy with the repeated lyrics, but sadly I can’t stand the guest vocals sung by Esmé Patterson.

It’s the positive messages of the album that have resonated with me more than the music. The music is great though. Obviously the singles are among the strongest tracks. Other highlights include ‘Glorious You’, ‘Demon’ and ‘Love Forty Down’, which are all rousing because of the way Turner belts out his passionate vocals. Positive Songs for Negative People contains the same style that you’ve come to expect from the previous five albums, distilled into 40 minutes of folk-punk. I prefer the heavier and more upbeat sound on this album over the somewhat depressing Tapedeck Heart.

Frank Turner (1) positive songs for negative peopleThe Sleeping Souls prove themselves once again as the perfect backing band for Turner.They rock out when they need to, and they colour the music tastefully when it pulls back. Two of the finer musical moments on the album include the cut out during the bridge of ‘Glorious You’ and the gorgeous harmonies in the outro of ‘Demons’.

There are two songs that sum up the album. ‘Glorious You’ is all about support and accepting who you are. And the most powerful is saved for last. ‘Song For Josh’ is a
tear-jerker about a friend who had committed suicide, recorded live at the venue that Josh used to run. Somber as it is, this touching tribute really emphasises the overall message of the album – that life is worth fighting for.

Positive Songs for Negative People is suitably named. The negative people are there, the weirdos and outsiders; those who are pinned down by the storms and the demons. But overall the album is affirming and rousing, shouting a message loud and clear: “I’m alive and I’m going to fight to keep it that way”.

It’s not the best Frank Turner album (England Keep My Bones still stands as my favourite), but it’s still pretty great. It has tender moments, brilliant lyrics, uplifting messages and some ripping rock music.

Joseph James

Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Meow, Wellington

Frank Turner Sleeping Souls Meow Wellington New Zealand tour poster
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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

w/ Jon Snodgrass
Meow, Wellington
Saturday 18 April 2015

Let it never be said that Frank Turner doesn’t please his fans.

His output is prolific: a constant stream of new EP’s, splits, B-side collections and live DVD’s to appease his fans between studio albums. All on top of a hectic touring schedule.

Just last week he played all of England Keep My Bones at a show in Melbourne. To say I had looked forward to this gig would be an understatement.

Meow was an interesting choice of venue. I’m used to seeing small folk acts play here, not bands with this kind of following. Being sold out, the place was crammed, making it far more ‘intimate’ than I’m used too. Not that I’m complaining – how often do you get to witness a special small gig like this, put on by someone who has headlined Wembley?


Jon Snodgrass (Drag The River) started the night off singing some of his solo material. His voice was warm and comforting, reminiscent of Southern styled country music. He was soon joined onstage by Frank Turner wearing a Converge hoodie and armed with a harmonica.

The two of them played a bunch of songs from their Buddies split EP, a rough recording penned in only four hours during a stint together on the Revival Tour in America. The songs were far from perfect – clearly not well rehearsed – but the stories behind each song were entertaining and the relaxed approach from the duo set the mood for a fun night ahead. One of the highlights was the song “Happy New Year”. They bullied their stage tech into taking over on harmonica for that song, despite protests that he didn’t know how.

For his own set, Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, were all dressed in white button up shirts. The Sleeping Souls were the perfect choice of band. All four of them  were clearly into it, jumping and dancing about onstage, although mid-set they lived up to their name and had a sleepy sit-down while Turner played some material solo. Bassist Tarrant Anderson held his bass high on his chest and waltzed round with it, while Ben Lloyd boogied and ripped on guitar and mandolin. The placed was so densely packed that I couldn’t see the drums or keys from where I was standing, but I could certainly hear them.

This tour was supposed to promote the new album, but the new album hadn’t yet been released. Not to be deterred by this, Turner previewed a handful of tracks from said forthcoming album. The first song had a country feel. “Get Better” is a straight up thumper. Every song was great, leaving me eager to listen to get my mitts on the new album once it comes out.

The show was full of rousing sing-alongs, or more accurately, shout-alongs. The musicians were at home on-stage, happy to interact with the crowd and exchange banter. There were threats to cover Crowded House and Shihad. Drummer Nigel Powell played the tourist card and asked how many people in the crowd worked for Weta Digital. Turner told a funny story about how he was inspired to write a song in Melbourne about an ex-girlfriend who smelt like a koala.

Towards the end Turner noted how there was no point in doing the typical encore ritual, mainly because there was no room for the band to leave the stage. The “one more song!” chant was supported by the drums, and the *boom, boom, clap* evolved into a short cover of Queens’ “We Will Rock You”.

The encore included some of the hits from the early albums, ending with “Four Simple Words”. Turner conducted the band theatrically, before crowd-surfing during the last verse.

Fanboy rating: Next level

Fangirl rating: next level

This was Turners show #1666, and the last of the current tour. He recounts how one thousand shows ago he played an Iron Maiden cover. This remains testament to Turner’s longevity as a musician, due to his inclusive, humble approach to playing music. All the musos hung back after the show to meet the fans and sign merch, despite a 4am flight home the following day.

At the end of a tour bands are either too exhausted and at the end of their tether, or go all out and end with a bang. This was a case of the latter.

Because there’s no such thing as rock stars, just people who play music. Some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks.  

Frank Turner – “Try This At Home”

Turner is the anti-rock star. He knows how to master the stage and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. But he’s just a regular guy. He swears and shouts and crowd surfs, and invites the audience to do the same. Many of his lyrics are thought provoking and tender, written from the point of a man who once idealised punk ethos and has since matured, but refuses to forget his past. Turner acknowledges the teenage anarchists and old fogeys alike, and invites them both to dance and sing along.

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Frank Turner – The Third Three Years (B-sides collection)

Frank Turner Third Three Years
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Folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner stays true to his DIY hardcore roots by releasing a third b-sides collection with a nod to Black Flag.

Turner had hardcore/punk origins as front man of the band Million Dead. After Million Dead, er … died, Turner began a solo career with a folk sound along the lines of Billy Bragg and the late Joe Strummer. He’s worked hard touring and recording consistently over the years, and now has begun to achieve relative commercial success, having headlined at Wembley Arena and played at the London Olympics opening ceremony in recent years.

This is Turner’s third collection of b-sides, following his last album Tape Deck Heart. The title and album art  are inspired by The First Four Years from seminal hardcore outfit Black Flag.

I’m a bit late to the party reviewing this album, but sometimes it takes a while for things to arrive in New Zealand when I have to order them from overseas. It was worth the wait though.

I’ve kept up with some of Turner’s non-album output, such as Daytrotter sessions, but I was pleased to discover that Third Three Years contained music that was almost entirely new to me, including some unreleased gems. The collection comprises of covers,  b-sides from EP’s and singles and obscure recording sessions.

In fact, nearly half the collection are up of covers. Turner covers his bases with his choices. There are classic bands (Queen, Tom Petty), folk singers (Townes Van Zandt) and punk artists (Tony Sly, The Weakerthans). These covers do well to encompass Turner’s very British style of folk-punk. Many of the covers are stripped back, giving the overall album a more somber feel. But hey, anybody who can take on a song by Freddie Mercury and do it justice deserves a thumbs up in my books.

There are a few alternative outtakes from his latest album, Tape Deck Heart. My favourite from that album, “The Way I Tend To Be” is given different treatment with extra mandolin and piano.

There are two collaborations with other artists. “Happy New Year” is a humourous and unpretentious ditty with Jon Snodgrass and “Fields Of June” is a country number by Emily Barker that Turner features on. These duets work nicely to add a bit of variety to the mix.

The rest of the songs are just what you’d expect, punk ethos singer-songwriter music with breathless singing and swear-word filled shouting. Although this is what I expected, I didn’t expect so much solo work. Turner’s touring band, The Sleeping Souls seem absent from these recordings. A few songs are collaborations with other musicians – Revival Tour style DIY camaraderie – but other than a mandolin, organ or added guitar accompaniment here or there, there is a marked lack of a full band of most tracks. The Sleeping Souls are credited on nine songs, but it’s pretty subtle because they’re hard to detect.

B-sides collections like these are never as strong as a cohesive studio album, but can offer rare gems for the diehard fans. There are a lot of songs (21!), and although most are not considered ‘good enough’ to make the cut, fans won’t be disappointed. And they should know what to expect, because any serious Frank Turner will likely have The First Three Years and The Second Three Years anyway.

Overall this album is a bit too sedate to get regular play through my speakers. There is more of a folk focus than punk. I’m more likely to select the handful of songs that I enjoy more and include them in playlists than listen to the entire collection. But just to show that he’s not getting soft, Turner closes off the CD with a rip-roaring live version of “Dan’s Song”. It’s furiously fast and explosive, just like punk music should be.

Frank Turner put on an excellent show in Wellington in April 2013 with his backing band, The Sleeping Souls. He’s returning this April to play sideshows from the Byron Bay Bluesfest. Details can be found through the Chicks That Scream Facebook page.

Joseph James