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Frank Turner – Be More Kind

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, May 8, 2018.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from chorus.fm for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    It’s almost difficult to dislike an album as inherently positive as Be More Kind. In today’s draining political and cultural climates, Frank Turner not only believes that change is possible, but that it begins within each of us. In fact, if there’s an overarching criticism to be made about the album, it’s that these songs tend to veer into the brand of vague optimism that’s better employed lining the inside of Hallmark cards. But sometimes, even those messages can be refreshing to hear, and considering the relatively low energy on display, Turner’s heart, technical ability, and good intentions carry Be More Kind a considerable distance.

    A far cry from the affirmative, anthemic rock of 2015’s Positive Songs For Negative People, Be More Kind sounds subdued and intimate, closest perhaps to the pop-folk of Tape Deck Heart. Its quality isn’t far off either; Turner reverts to the 70% killer, 30% filler formula that defined several of his early albums. This is a fine record, but one that is hurt by poor sequencing and an overall lack of bite. The boldest trick here – an attempt to rebrand its titular phrase by “making racists ashamed again” in “Make America Great Again” – is a well-intentioned swing and a miss that fails to make a slogan shrouded to white supremacy any more comfortable to sing along to.

    To its credit, Be More Kind isn’t overtly political (and “1933,” its only other attempt to be, is a raw rock number that denounces fascism with fire and fury), but a release that seeks to intertwine the goals of personal and political betterment. Despite an A-side marked by largely impersonal lyrics, Turner still manages to craft remarkable moments, such as the gorgeous strings that underline the album’s title track and even its most cloying piece, single “Little Changes.” When he ends opening track “Don’t Worry” by singing, “I don’t know what I’m doing/No one has a clue/But you’ll figure it out/And I might too,” he sounds as sincere as ever. And why should we suspect otherwise? When an artist like Turner consistently churns out songs and albums that stay with us, it’s understood that there will be misses.

    Fortunately, the back half of Be More Kind is substantially stronger than its first, starting with the resonant ballad and inevitable first dance, “There She Is.” Lead single “Blackout” showcases the album’s underutilized flirtation with electronic flourishes and pop hooks; not only is it the most interesting song here, but it’s likely the one that will convince underwhelmed listeners to allow the album time to sit with them and grow. Strangely enough, Be More Kind’s final sequence is its strongest, including the atmospheric shuffle of “Common Ground” and the daunting cautionary tale that is “The Lifeboat” before ending with the pleasant and perfectly representative “Get It Right.”

    “Take a breath, try these for size/I don’t know, I change my mind/Between life and death/We’ll find the time to get it right,” Turner sings before leading a communal chant of ba-da-da’s. “Get It Right” is not a bad song, and Be More Kind is far from a bad album, but these are the kind of foggy, unspecific musings that fill the album’s most vapid moments. Have you seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Be More Kind is “nice” in the same way that Clementine interprets the word as a lack of anything more interesting. For some fans, this will be enough, but for most, Be More Kind’s stronger cuts will likely fill up space on a playlist as we patiently wait for Turner to either further evolve or get back to what he does best.

     
  2. shawnhyphenray

    Regular

    Top contender for AOTY for me.
     
    LightsOut likes this.
  3. Aaron nails this here. It's a fine album, there's some good songs, but it's definitely not great and there's really not a whole lot I find myself wanting to return to. And, there's quite a few clunkers as it just middles along. Pretty disappointed all-in-all.
     
  4. Butinsmallsteps May 8, 2018
    (Last edited: May 8, 2018)
    Butinsmallsteps

    Regular

    First of all, love how many album reviews we’ve been getting.

    Second in glad I’m not alone In my thoughts on this album. I was really surprised by the positive reaction I was seeing by people cause to me this album is really perfectly represented by one word: underwhelming.
    It tries so hard to be memorable and unique and interesting but so little of it is. Almost all of it is just...kinda good
     
    orangehorizon and Aaron Mook like this.
  5. Thanks for posting! Out of curiosity, which songs do you like?
    Thanks for reading! Honestly, when I first heard the album, I struggled with whether I wanted to score it as "neutral" or "recommended." But the more I listened and actually expanded on my thoughts, the more glaring the album's flaws became. It's an easy listen with some really nice moments, but when that's the best thing you can say about it (especially in the shadow of Positive Songs For Negative People, which truly impressed me), that doesn't exactly make it a good listen.
     
    Butinsmallsteps likes this.
  6. LightsOut

    Regular

    I prefer the first half of the album! The last 3-4 song are just boring to me . But hey! Its just my opinion:)
     
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  7. JonnyMac

    Newbie Supporter

    As someone who has struggled to get into Frank Turner for the last couple years, this was actually the album that won me over. As a parent of four little girls, I’ve struggled with the lack of kindness in the world, and how much better the world could be if those four humans could show it to others. Something with his lyricism (as vague as it may be at times) struck a chord with me this time around.

    It feels like it could hold hands with Paddington 2 and skip down a street. Ok, that might have been a little overboard, but I also loved Paddington 2 for many of the same reasons I’ve enjoyed this album.
     
  8. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I think he really missed Butch Walker here. A better producer could have knocked some life into these songs. Instead, they're exactly what @Aaron Mook says they are: "nice." Positive Songs remains his best, for me.
     
  9. Butinsmallsteps

    Regular

    Absolutely. After seeing what he did on positive songs I was super surprised by how mellow this album felt. There’s very few risks, very few big moments. Very little to point at and go “this is why it’s great”
     
  10. Stevie

    Regular

    Couldn’t disagree more - I think the sequencing is spot on and allows the album to flow, also if anything the album is front end heavy with bangers. Last two songs are sleepers for me... It’s interesting though to hear opposing thoughts though.

    I agree that Make America Great Again is a little cringey and some of the words just feel a little forced.
     
  11. SamLevi11

    Trusted Supporter

    As a long term fan, I find this disappointing. Some good songs but it all feels very wet and nice and safe.

    England Keep My Bones is still his best, in my opinion, but when you have that, Love, Ire & Song, Tape Deck Heart, and Positive Songs, I'll allow the occasional misfire.
     
    Aaron Mook and Turkeylegz like this.
  12. Honeymagnolia

    Regular Supporter

    I like the album but I don't know if after a month of two with it whether I would come back to it. It seems a little half hearted in its message. Their She Is should be a killer love song/first dance song but it never really goes anywhere and doesn't say a lot. I was excited when I heard Frank was returning to write a few political songs but they just fall a bit flat.

    The Lifeboat is my least favourite song on the album. Best song I would opt for Common Grounds.
     
  13. Donnie Ruth

    Trusted Supporter

    A very great review for an album I think all of us feel bad not loving as much as our standards were concerned. You pretty much nailed it!

    Only bit I would disagree is the sequencing for the final three, but I'm glad you liked it!
     
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  14. rxbandit89

    probably over-caffeinated.

    I liked it enough on my first listen, but I agree that there weren't many big standout moments. Still, I'll spin this a few more times and enjoy it enough. Now I'm just waiting for another Mongol Horde album....
     
  15. I agree with everything in this review except the shade thrown at Tape Deck Heart. I love that album so much I listen to all the b-sides every time I listen to it. Might be my favourite Frank record, but EKMB and PSFNP (and even LIS) give it a run for its money.

    It's a bummer this one is a dud but he's still one of my favourite artists. I'm fully confident he'll release another great album in the future.
     
    Honeymagnolia likes this.
  16. RazorCrusade

    We make our own luck and we live with every defeat Supporter

    I wasn't into it on first listen but every time I listen to this album it gets catchier and I really enjoy it now. Definitely not his best work, but I applaud him for stretching his creative boundaries.
     
  17. Butinsmallsteps

    Regular

    One of the things I find most fascinating about this album is that somehow while stretching his creative boundaries he managed to make his most boring album to date.
     
  18. I'd argue one of the bigger reasons this left me underwhelmed is because it doesn't seem to stretch his creative boundaries enough? Again, the strings are a fantastic addition, and the electronic elements of "Blackout" are what make it so interesting, but mostly everything else here has been done by Frank before, and done better.
     
  19. zerotimeseleven

    Newbie

    I came here to say this. The first half is wildly better than the last.

    This album was woefully underwhelming for me because I adored the opener and could see sparks of greatness that never really come to fruition. The album is inconsistent and lacks a significant and solid direction.

    There are some great tracks, but I'll just pull those ones out and leave the rest of the record to gather dust.
     
  20. RileyWitiw

    more like absolutepop.net Supporter

    Really liked 1933 buuuut nothing else really grabbed me here
     
  21. I just can't imagine thinking the half of the album that has "Little Changes" and "Make America Great Again," two songs I will honestly probably never listen to again, is better than the second half. But to each their own I guess.
     
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  22. thegreatbenbino

    Be excellent to each other!

    The lyrics on this are just so bland. If you want to make a statement, make it. Feels like he was trying to make a "punk" album, but was trying not to offend anyone at the same time... which is not really how it works.