The Magnificence of Frank Turner

All right, friends, it’s time to talk about my latest obsession.

I stumbled upon Frank Turner completely by accident. I was trawling Youtube for a clip of the BBC Casanova (Yes, I have a problem re: David Tennant. We’ve established this. I’m seeking help, all right? It’s not my fault that what I thought was a support group turned out to be the campus Doctor Who fanclub.) Anyway, while doing this, I came across the video for Frank Turner’s song Casanova Lament.

This song literally stopped me dead in my tracks (and momentarily distracted me from that other obsession that I’m not going to talk about anymore). There’s just something so wistful, so hauntingly beautiful about this song. It’s so unobtrusive, not so much sad as resigned, and something about that quietness and simplicity just caught me. I listen to a lot of, as my friend who thinks he’s clever puts it, “hipster ukulele music,” but I rarely come across anything that hits those notes of equanimity and clarity with such deftness and surety.

So then I did a little more digging, listened to some more of his music, and came across what is now the second of my three favorite Frank Turner songs, I Still Believe.

It’s a bit funny, because this song is almost nothing like the first one I listened to; where that one is restrained and reflective, this song is joyous and celebratory. It’s inclusive and inviting and makes me want to dance like an idiot every time I hear it and, I don’t know, go hug a stranger or something. The things it, it’s hopeful, sure, but there’s also a just-barely hidden desperation to it (and that, I think, connects it thematically to Casanova Lament). Because when I hear this song, yes, I want to dance and shout and smile, but I also hear a great amount of loss and emptiness and fear, and that’s why we’re singing so loudly, because we need something to cover that up.

After listening to most of his songs over the past few days (seriously, people, when I get obsessed with something, the single-minded determination with which I attack it is abjectly terrifying, please help me), I’ve realized that mix of joy and pain is something Frank Turner does uniquely well, as seen in the third of my favorite songs, The Road.

See, I love this song because of the passion with which he sings it, because I can relate to that sense of wanderlust (which always seems to hit around finals time), and I love the video because it’s shot after shot of people having an absolute blast. Also, though, there’s a simultaneous tension and parallelism between the video and the song. On the one hand, the song is about running away, and the video is about camaraderie and the joy of other people, which doesn’t seem to fit. But then, if you think about it, in the video, he stays at each show for a matter of seconds (within the context of the video, I know the actual shows were longer), as though he can’t stay anywhere for too long, and that reflects the need in the song to constantly keep moving so that nothing becomes too familiar.

But ultimately, I can’t get past that huge grin on Frank’s face at the beginning of the The Road video, because it speaks to such glee, such excitement at finding all these things in the world that he can see and do and write about and sing about. So even when his songs have those undercurrents of sadness and loneliness and desperation (Cause the truth is you won’t be here long/Yeah soon you’re gonna die), you always get the feeling that the love and beauty and exuberance wins out. He attacks his music with such passion, such intensity, such life-affirming desperation, that how could I help but love it?

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2 responses to “The Magnificence of Frank Turner

  1. Frank Turner is such a wonder 🙂 And as you might imagine, quite fantastic to see live. All those feelings and emotions you wrote about are amplified tenfold when you see him play on stage. Plus, the good news is he’s been touring consistently for about the last four years, so wherever you are in the world you’re likely to find an opportunity to see him. I couldn’t recommend the experience more!

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