Frank Turner, “Last Minutes and Lost Evenings” (Epitaph)
Having released his first full-length solo album just five years ago, it may seem a little soon for a Frank Turner best-of compilation. But as the British folk/punk (or is that punk/folk?) singer-songwriter tries to transfer his UK success to the states, it’s actually a smart move – and an impressive nod to an already burgeoning body of work.
“Last Minutes and Lost Evenings” may not hold together as well as his albums of original material – notably last year’s “England Keep My Bones,” a stellar, foul-mouthed love letter to his home country. But it’s an excellent primer for those unfamiliar with Turner’s tough, impassioned shout-outs to rock ’n’ roll salvation and the healing power of good, old-fashioned camaraderie.
Turner’s at his most compelling – and funniest – when investigating his attempts to hang on to the stupidity of youth while being inextricably pulled toward respectability. “The Real Damage” tells his story of waking up in a strange house “surrounded by sleeping folks that I didn’t know,” resulting in a walk of shame that makes him question his current lifestyle choices. On the appropriately titled “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot,” meanwhile, Turner argues in favor of letting down your guard in search of more meaningful connections, admitting all the while that “I’m not as awesome as this song makes out.”
The songs from Turner’s last two albums stand out, particularly “Try This At Home” and “I Still Believe,” two of the best paeans to simple rock ’n’ roll salvation to come along this century. But all of Turner’s full-throated shout-outs to friends, family, country, music and everything else that makes life worth living are more dynamic and clearly heartfelt than most of what passes for modern rock music. In short, if you still don’t know Turner, you should – and this disc, complete with a companion DVD of him belting the songs live, is a great place to start.
Peter Chianca blogs for Gatehouse Media’s Blogness on the Edge of Town and is author of “Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.