Is Frank Turner the most underrated musician of the decade? In a word, yes. This is not to say that he’s the best musician of the decade, just that he’s the most underrated. I can mention him to twenty people, both locally and from the UK, and only one of them will have any idea of whom I’m speaking. This is unacceptable to me. How can someone who reaches into his soul and shares it with the world be this unheard of? It’s not like he’s a local artist playing a residency at a single venue. In those cases, even the most incredibly talented musicians are often unknown outside of their regions. But Frank Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, tour extensively, and by extensively, I mean almost all the time. He books shows across the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, the UK, etc. He even played the opening ceremony at the London Olympics for the love of God, so how do people in or near London not even know who he is? Didn’t that entire country watch the Olympics that year? How can they claim to have not heard of him?? It simply boggles my mind. And again, I find this unacceptable.
His songs are truly defining of an entire subculture and he should be at least as well known as some manufactured band with auto-tuned vocals and overly derivative musical stylings. In fact, he should be more well known because he is raw and genuine and has something to say, something that is worth hearing.
Let me step off my soap box for a moment and give you some history. I first caught Frank Turner at the Austin City Limits music festival several years ago, and only because my friend and I didn’t want to walk to the other end of the park to see the band we were originally planning to catch. See, Frank was playing at the stage closest to us, and I suggested we give him three songs, and if we didn’t like it, we’d move on to the other band. This turned out to be the best decision of the weekend.
Before this day, I had never heard of Frank Turner, who hailed from somewhere in the UK. It didn’t take long for him to win us over. Moments into the first song, I knew this was something special, and we ended up staying for, and enjoying, the entire set. His energy, intelligent lyrics, and angst blended with hope was something unique and raw and beautiful.
As I left the park that night, I downloaded one of his albums, Love Ire & Song from iTunes. The next day, I downloaded another, Poetry of the Deed. Over the years, I’ve added more. He just had something to which I connected, and I couldn’t get enough. I’ve caught him every time he’s played in Austin since then, and every time, I grow more convinced that he is truly one of the greats and should have a much larger following than he does. I’m not sure why he doesn’t have the following he deserves. Perhaps it’s the very thing that appeals to me and his fans around the world that no longer seems valued by the masses. I love his rawness, his way of singing a song and maybe straining a note that conveys a level of desperation and intensity, enhancing the impact of the words he’s singing. He’s not sugar-coated and superficial. He’s imperfect, and maybe our obsession with perfection limits our willingness to open up to what is flawed and real.
The summer of 2015 saw the release of Positive Songs for Negative People, an album whose very name says a ton. It conveys that yes life can suck, but things can get better. The beauty of this album is that it never feels heavy; it acknowledges that life and love can be bitter and hard and painful, but that we can find hope. We can face the adversity and forge on. Melodically, most of the songs maintain an upbeat vibe, regardless of the lyrics, which keeps a listener from plummeting too far into those shady emotional regions. Past albums, like Tape Deck Heart, feel honest and make listeners feel like maybe they know Frank Turner on some level.
I look forward to the day when the mention of Frank Turner elicits squeals of excitement at how awesome he is. If you haven’t heard his music, do yourselves a favor and correct that. He is currently touring in Canada and the US. Information may be found on his website. http://frank-turner.com We should escape from all the phony sincerity that surrounds us and return to something that is real. I believe Frank Turner could help us with that.