“There’s been a bunch of discussions, online and elsewhere, about the release of my forthcoming 8th studio album, ‘No Man’s Land'”, Frank Turner opens his blog post addressing his somewhat conceptual eighth studio album.
Loosely speaking, Turner‘s latest release aims to tell “stories [of women throughout history] that have not and are not being told right now”, be that from Jenny Bingham, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, to Ditto Nica Rothschild, Catherine Blake, and Huda Shaarawi. While not all of these names are ‘unexplored’, the real issue in this concept is that Turner‘s singing on such topics can come across as a bit mansplaining.
Yet, his intentions on the record are good – and his blog post respectively shows thought behind his decisions. The stories are told because there’s value to them, and he’s enlisted the help of great female musicians tracking instruments, while the record is produced by heavy-weight producer Catherine Marks. All this makes you question: is this record really such a bad idea? Well, yes and no.
The record sounds just like a Frank Turner record, with plodding acoustic guitars and his trademark pronounced vocals being a staple, regardless of what’s being sung with his typical lyrical wit and flair. That is, in itself, a problem – there’s no indication (other than the blog post) that the record was made and produced by so many talented women, as it just sounds like Turner doing his usual thing.
Tracks like ‘Sister Rossetta’ (with a chorus that sounds like it’ll burst into ‘Stacey’s Mom’ at any moment) and ‘The Death Of Dora Hand’ slot in nicely with his catalogue, but the stories and work hidden beneath gets a little lost through the narrator, even though they’re nicely told and delivered.
That said, Turner is somewhat self-aware. These are stories (some of which have been given plenty of coverage already by other songwriters and artists) that should be told, and he is just a medium for that. Sure, it’s questionable to ask whether he should be the one to write these songs, but is that worth the tales not being told?
Turner‘s eighth endeavour at least got people talking, but musically it never really strays from the path, and topically, perhaps distracts a bit too much from the music.