Frank Turner – No Man’s Land (Xtra Mile Recordings)
Frank Turner, concept album? No! Yes, you heard correctly. After seven incredibly successful albums chronicling his own life, Frank has taken a step back with No Man’s Land, and taken on the role of narrator in this wonderfully crafted record, that tells the untold stories of important female figures throughout history.
Since going solo in 2006, Frank Turner has gone on a steady journey of musical evolution, from the raw, rugged feel of Sleep Is for the Week to the highly polished, pop-infused Be More Kind. Throughout this time, he has always had his trusty backing band, The Sleeping Souls on board, with Nigel Powell featuring on every album to date, however this time round, Frank has opted for an all-female backing cast, for an album that sees him come full circle, taking him back to his folky acoustic roots.
Opening with Jinny Bingham’s Ghost, No Man’s Land starts with great pace, wonderful wordplay and fascinating percussion, setting up the tempo of the album from the very first note. Although this track sees Frank very much return to his gritty folk days, this track, along with proceeding numbers like Sister Rosetta,The Death of Dora Hand and The Loneliness, could easily slide onto England Keep My Bones, with their singalong, atmospheric vibes.
This theme continues with a number of other tracks, which individually would fit well with previous releases, however as an overall standalone, this album as a whole is very different to Frank’s most recent work. The electric guitar is gone. The arena ready tunes are gone. No Man’s Land is an album about story telling. It is much more intimate than anything we have seen from Frank in a long time; however, these tracks will fit perfectly into the solo section of his live set.
Overall, this is a first class album, and one that every Frank Turner fan will love. No Man’s Land features the sounds, the singalongs and the wonderful wordplay that fans fell in love with more than a decade ago, and it has all the acoustic ruggedness to go along with it.
However, this album is unlikely to propel him to the bigger stages or win him airtime on major radio stations. It’s unlikely to take him back on another arena tour, and it’s not going to open him up to a new fan base in the way Be More Kind, Positive Songs For Negative People or Tape Deck Heart did. Instead, Frank has pushed himself further, but he has done it for his own musical satisfaction, and in the process given the Frank Turner Army an album that they will truly love.