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Words by Natalie Blacklock

After nearly 20 years as a solo artist and with his incredible backing band, The Sleeping Souls in tow, English folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner has built a global audience on the back of his meticulously numbered shows (we’re quickly approaching show 3000!), his at-times bold and unapologetic political statements, and of course his ability to curate joyful and more importantly, meaningful connections with room after room of strangers through his unique brand of fun and selfdeprecation.

Embracing the liberation of being an independent artist once again, Frank Turner has released his 10th album, ‘Undefeated’ via Xtra Mile Recordings. Written solely by Turner, ‘Undefeated’ takes inspiration from a number of Turner’s long-time influences including Black Flag, Counting Crows, Descendents, The Pogues, Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg. Recorded with his live band, The Sleeping Souls; Ben Lloyd (guitar), Tarrant Anderson (bass), Callum Green (drums) and Matt Nasir (piano), the album takes a deep-dive into the world of ‘midlife challenges’ – persistent back pain, love, loss, keeping friendships alive, nostalgia, examining life in the post-pandemic period of COVID-19 and more, exploring both emotionally compelling topics and lighter inflections on those troubles that befall all of us eventually.

Opening track Do One begins acoustically before exploding into a full-band party at the chorus that fans who attended Turner’s recent Australian tour will likely remember fondly. Sporting catchy singalong verses and chorus melodies to boot, the track balances feelings of survival and defiance with a side of fun and self-deprecation – creating a perfect and energising start to the album.

Never Mind The Back Problems is reminiscent of a classic Irish drinking / moshing song in the same vein of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys. Coupled with a title that more than a few of us older punks could relate to these days, this track is definitely one that needs to be included in Turner’s live shows moving forward. Ceasefire is a track that speaks volumes through its lyrical content. Opening with piano and guitars in full flight, the song reads as a letter to Frank’s 15-year-old self. Reflective in nature, the lyrics hit hard; “I know I’m not everything that you had hoped and imagined that I would be, but I did my best”. Anticipation builds through the verses as the instrumentation drives towards a crescendoed ending, where Turner ultimately questions his need to be “begging forgiveness of a ghost”. In a change of pace, Girl From The Record Shop is excitable, playing out as almost a universal ‘fantasy teenage romance’ from the point of view of Turner’s teenage self – not only falling in love with the girl behind the counter, but with the record shop itself. Turner’s rework of the track featuring Adelaide’s Teenage Joans, wholeheartedly sells the narrative, with the track musically and lyrically willing for a love story to eventuate.

Pandemic PTSD is a strangely cheerful and danceworthy number, that cleverly recaps what’s been a ‘weird few years’ for all of us. Acting as somewhat of a social commentary on the world’s lasting hangover from the throws of COVID-19, Turner is aiming to start a conversation that he doesn’t feel has really been had. This oddly cathartic spin offers a reflective look at the “shit that we just lived through”, and gives a voice to the unresolved and perhaps even unspoken feelings the Pandemic and its aftermath stirred up in many of us, reminding us that it’s OK not to be OK”. Letters, the latest single to be released from the album, boats a cracking Tarrant Anderson bass line perfectly paired with a sharp drum track courtesy of Callum Green.  Based on a lost pen-friendship from Turner’s youth, Letters is a hooky ode to communication breakdown and the regret of lost connections.

East Finchley, presumably named after the leafy suburban area of north London, brings the pace down and showcases Turner as a modern-day poet, offering a mature and introspective trip down Turner’s ‘memory lane’, lamenting about what was and what could have been. No Thank You for the Music ramps things back up and is unapologetically a song about defiance, the rejection of mainstream culture, pride in the underground, and staying angry (not the oppressive kind but rather the one that liberates) as you get older. The gang vocals on the chorus really highlight why it will undoubtedly be a mainstay in Turner live set moving forward. The Leaders offers an upbeat feeling of positivity, but make no mistake, the lyrics are defiant, rebellious and unashamedly political, creating a stunning juxtaposition. If you were looking for encouragement to stand up for something that matters to you, then this is it – “if we want this shit to change, it’s up to us and no one else”. The cleverly titled International Hide And Seek Champions follows, and this feels like quintessential Frank Turner; a little bit pop, a little bit punk, positive vibes and feel-good glory all rolled into one. This is a track that lingers in your soul, leaving an imprint on you right then and there.

While a little more upbeat, Show People errs on the mellow side, comfortably leans into folk-country territory. The track pays homage to live performers, and the challenges involved with life on the road. On My Way is the most stripped-back song on the album and sees Turner explore restrained, delicate and raw vocals, accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar. The track espouses a beautiful tenderness and devotion to a lover left at home while on tour. Undoubtedly, On My Way will find its way onto a few wedding playlists in the near future! With the album’s end in sight, Somewhere In-between dials things back and lets Turner’s vocals shine through the Sleeping Souls’ creeping instrumental arrangement. A slow-burn bursting with emotion, the track paints a picture of the struggles of identity and fitting in. Title track Undefeated closes out the album, delivering another reminder to many, who may feel defeated at times, that the feeling is only temporary. Complete with a horn section, Turner ends the record triumphantly proclaiming independent, undefeated”a pretty perfect way to round out such a mammoth album.

‘Undefeated’ conveys an air of acceptance; that as one gets older, you learn that your road-worn efforts aren’t for everyone but for better or worse, the tracks left behind are yours. Undoubtedly, Frank Turner knows his place in the world and this collection of songs, though reflective and critical of the past, don’t deliver an ounce of regret. It seems it’s always been about his music and Turner’s embodiment of the punk spirit; from laidback ballads, lashings of high-energy punk, to innocent teenage lovesongs, ‘Undefeated’ really has something for everyone.


With thanks to Beehive PR

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