Frank Turner – “Poetry Of The Deed”

Winchester local Frank Turner has been out making quite a name for himself in the last few years. Previously a member of the hardcore rock band Million Dead, he now writes and records his own unique blend of acoustic/country/folk/punk-rock songs which are both bitter-sweet and truly empowering at the same time. Now whilst that might seem like a lot of genres rolled into one, Frank Turner pulls all of it off amazingly well, and after a previous two albums worth of material he has now released Poetry Of The Deed, which cements his status as a unique artist along with the rest of his band.

I’ll openly admit that my buying this album has been a long time coming, but now that I own it, I truly don’t regret getting it! Poetry Of The Deed, as an album, is an eclectic mix of emotions as far as the songs and lyrics take you. The joyful, piano led opener Live Fast Die Old is both an uplifting punk-rock song about living your life to the fullest, but also doing for so long that you never stop enjoying it. The line “You’d rather burn out than fade away? Well why not both, I plan to stay” sums up the spirit of the song, which in turn is closely followed by Try This At Home, another folk-punk mix that encourages all listeners to “turn off your stereo, pick up that pen and paper, you could do much better than a half-arsed skinny English country singer”. For all the talent and charisma he has, Frank Turner doesn’t lose his sense of humor or irony throughout Poetry Of The Deed, and that just makes the songs all the more interesting. For instance, Dan’s Song is just a song about him and his friend Dan taking some beers to a park to drink, and inviting people to join them. A simple, humorous little song, but the way that it’s sung gives it more meaning than what you would otherwise realize.

The title song Poetry Of The Deed itself is one of the more rock-led songs, Tuner’s punky vocals giving power and lift to the chorus lines, and all the interestingly phrased lyrics that paint a picture of not being held back in wanting to live dreams, such as the line “let’s grab life by the throat and live it to pieces”. The Fastest Way Back Home is the closest thing on Poetry of The Deed to a love ballad, but it’s still one that rock with its piano led folksiness. Right after this, though, is Sons Of Liberty which is a total turn as a political punk song which drips not only with Irish folk balladry (especially with the violin accompaniment at the end) but also with malice and scorn for the government with the lines “Stand up sons of liberty, and fight for what you own. Stand up sons of liberty and fight, fight for your homes”.

Recent single The Road is a beautiful little country-style song about the people Frank Turner meets and the stories he can tell from being on tour and seeing the places he’s seen, which then gives way to a couple of darker-tinted songs such as Richard Divine which could easily deceive you as a less dark song if you were less attentive to the lyric content about suicide. However dark these may be, there’s Sunday Nights to lighten the mood with its slow, melodic verses.

Closing off Poetry Of The Deed is Journey Of The Magi, an almost mournful song that speaks of stories of Moses and Greek Gods that only have stories to tell because they didn’t take the easier road – a message that speaks true not only of Frank Turner himself, but for anyone who cares to listen enough to the messages thread throughout these songs, ending with the line ” So saddle your horse and shoulder your load, burst at the seams, be what you dream, and take to the road.”

There is an eclectic mix of messages and songs on Poetry Of The Deed, ranging from the uplifting and empowering to the dark and political. Frank Turner has done a fantastic job threading ideals and messages throughout these songs, and the music that he’s made to go with them is just as great. Poetry Of The Deed is definitely an ideal listen for anyone who enjoys City And Colour but needs a bit more energy to the acoustics, or anyone that enjoys punk-rock songs but feels they may need a break from all the angst! Definitely one to give a listen to, at the very least!

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Alexisonfire – “Old Crows/Young Cardinals”

Canada’s post-hardcore prodigal sons Alexisonfire once again return with this, their 4th studio album and this time taking a decidedly different approach to their usual sound that they are most known for.

Tracking back to their self-titled debut and then to their Watch Out! album, through to their last release Crisis, there has been a very similar, recognisable sound to their brand of post-hardcore, but as well as this there has been noticeable progressions. Their debut had experimental guitar sounds mixed with furious, cutting vocals courtesy of frontman George Pettit, whilst singer/guitarist Dallas Green focused mainly on the musical aspect of his role. Watch Out! saw him break out of his shell considerably more, and involved more high-tempo set lists and is still considered by many to be their best album to date. The same cannot be said for Crisis, since in many people’s eyes this was a bit of a letdown.

Old Crows/Young Cardinals is immediately a completely different beast, as the status quo has been changed quite a bit in their sound. “Other” guitarist Wade MacNeil lends his vocals a lot more as well as Dallas Green taking a bit more of the limelight and adding richer, darker and more beautiful harmonies to the music, whilst George Pettit takes on an entirely different style in his. Whilst before, Pettit’s vocals were considerably more shredding, sounding like he’d swallowed sandpaper and a whole bunch o’ hate to achieve his vocals, this time he’s taken on a more hardcore punk sound, coming across deeper and bolder than before.

Opener Old Crows builds up to its chorus which contains the sentiment “we are not the kids we used to be”, and its clear to see that no, they really aren’t! But this isn’t in anyway a bad thing, as this entire record continues from this point onwards with its up-tempo pace and deep, enthralling lyrics that contain all kinds of themes, all the while Dallas Green’s lyrics adding richness and colour to the pictures the lyrics paint. Young Cardinals, as the band have said, is a song about the power of nature overturning nurture (as is a majority of the album), which is clear in the contrasting lyrics of natural beauties being destroyed by “nicotine babies being born with no spines”. Chilling, yes, but again the lush, expansive vocals of Green in the chorus brighten things and show that nature shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The pace from this song continues all the way through the next few songs, all of which are brilliantly bold and diverse, until we reach The Northern, which could possibly be described as the No Transitory (from Watch Out!) of this album. It’s a considerably slower song, maybe the slowest of the album, but no less grand in its design with lyrics suggesting strong religious connotations despite the fact that Alexisonfire have not hinted at being in any way religious. The pace is immediately picked back up again as the album continues into Midnight Regulations (leaving no breathing space in between any of the songs as they nearly meld into each other), which has the chorus “Brother! There is no charity for the common man, when he is in need of relief.”

Second-to-last song Accept Crime arguably has the most punk-influenced sound of the album (although, there may not be much in it!) and brings out the riffs and the heavy stuff, before going into closer Burial. Unfortunately, this song brings what has so far been a hard-hitting album to a considerably slow-paced close, and sounds more like something that would belong more on one of Dallas Green’s City And Colour albums (despite it not being a solo-acoustic effort) rather than closing Old Crows/Young Cardinals after the sound this album has achieved. But, again, it’s not that its bad, its just more out of place than anything.

Overall, this is a very confident effort from the post-hardcore Canucks, especially after so many were let down by Crisis. I admit that I was perhaps a bit reluctant to immediately go out and get this album on release despite my liking the band so much as I knew they’d taken a different approach to their craft this time, but if anything Old Crows/Young Cardinals shows that change doesn’t always spell the end for a band, but more a new start in a different direction.

City And Colour – “Sometimes” and “Live”

So, to quite my excitement, I got a parcel in the post the other day.  Almost forgetting that I had ordered it at all, I find concealed within a double pack of City And Colour CD’s. For those not currently in the know (and why the hell AREN’T you?!), City And Colour is the brainchild of one Dallas Green (get it? It his name? CITY and COLOUR?), originally the guitarist and backing vocals for the Canadian Screamo/Hardcore/Punk outfit Alexisonfire. Whilst on various tours with Alexisonfire, Dallas Green would be sat at the back of the bus continually writing more and more songs, not all of which fitted into the Alexisonfire-style of song-craft. Therefore, City And Colour was born – a hybrid of heartfelt acoustic and upbeat folk music wrapped into one brutally honest, chilling and dramatic solo outfit. For those of you already in the know, you’ll already know how fantastic these songs are!

I personally already owned his latest album, Bring Me Your Love, which quite frankly opened my eyes to just how talented Dallas Green can be with his honest, heartfelt lyrics and his mastering of the acoustic guitar as much as the electric, and since then City And Colour has become one of my favourite bands (which is odd, since its a real stand-out, being an acoustic, solo outfit!). But, after listening to Bring Me Your Love to an extent that I know almost all the songs now (I’m even currently using the song Confessions in vocal training!) I decided to order myself a double pack of the only other CD’s City And Colour have made. These CD’s are Sometimes, the first studio album, and Live, a collection of live performances capturing a more raw, stripped down (even further!) side to Dallas Green that you just can get from a studio recording.

Sometimes, when compared to Bring Me Your Love, is by far a less technical and versatile album, but you have to remember that this one was released first, so its likely to be that way for most bands, not just Dallas Green! This, however, does not mean that the contents of these songs aren’t in anyway less hard-hitting. Songs such as Comin’ Home and Hello, I’m in Delaware show a side to Green that almost says “I’m sick of this touring thing, I’m out”, with lines like “I’ve seen palaces in London, I’ve seen a castle in Wales, but I’d rather wake up beside you and breathe that ol’ familiar smell”, obviously at the times when he’s seen it getting too much to handle. The title song Sometimes (I Wish) expresses the feeling that I’m sure many of us have had at some point, where we wonder whether the one that loves us would still love us if we were any different, expressed best in the line “If I suddenly went blind, would you still look in my eyes?”. For the most part, these songs are borderline cry-worthy (in the good sense!) because they bring out such emotions in the way the songs tell these stories, but there’s always a slightly more upbeat song coming round the corner as if to say “Well, its not ALWAYS bad, what about this?”.

Overall, Sometimes is a very meaningful record, not just to Dallas Green who has obviously written some of these songs as an outlet for his own thoughts and emotions, but also to the fans that listen who so clearly empathise with him so much.

The next CD is very simply called Live, doing exactly what it says on the tin (or album sleeve, if you will!). This CD, unfortunately, does NOT come with the extra DVD which is usually included when you buy it on its own, but this is no matter, as Dallas Green’s voice paints all the pictures you’ll ever need for this performance (unless you’re a total geek for the band or one of the people you hear at the start screaming “I Love You, Dallas!” from the rafters, in which case it’s completely understandable!). However, what you do get here is a total bombardment of raw lyrics, raw guitars and even more raw emotions. This album, for the most part, is essentially the same as Sometimes, but with some other songs that are “previously unreleased” (they appear on Bring Me Your Love, though, so don’t worry!), performed in front of an audience and stripped down further. So why do THESE songs seem to cut so much deeper? Can it be that if you were to close your eyes, you could imagine yourself being there? Or is it more the fact that Dallas Green’s voice seems to be even more haunting live when he’s playing off the audience than when he’s being recorded by a machine, rarely hitting an off-key note all CD? Take your pick!

Songs like Comin’ Home and Save Your Scissors hit that little bit harder here, and you get a sense of what Dallas Green is REALLY like while playing. Confessions in its own right, is a beautiful song with fantastic lyrics (“I’ve been up for days, trying to find a way, to write my confession down”), but done live you get a sudden, chilling sense that Green actually means EVERYTHING he’s saying, and he’s singing it right at you. Previous Alexisonfire song Happiness By The Kilowatt also makes an appearance here, and its not very often that an artist gets to cover one of his own songs, but Dallas Green makes it just as impressive and hard hitting as the rest of his set. The only thing that really brings this CD down is the almost unnecessary inclusion of two alternate versions of songs that are already on here, but once you hear them, you realise they are essentially different performances. But that doesn’t sit for long, as future heartbreak release Sensible Heart makes its debut at the end, and not a dry eye is left after he’s done!

Overall, this is a near-perfect example of what City And Colour do best. It’s not very often that a simple, well performed song or two can reduce a grown person to tears, but in the case of Dallas Green and City And Colour, you had better be ready to catch yourself!