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FRANK TURNER (Bar Academy, Birmingham, May 6)

16-04-2007

Ex Million Dead hardcore hero Frank Turner brings his neo-Billy Bragg stylings to Bar Academy in Birmingham next month. Paul Samuels can’t wait.

So what would you do when your Hardcore band splits up? Would you take your Black Flag tattoos, stage diving and go off and be a guitar strumming Folk singer......like a great big girl?

Well, ex Million Dead singer Frank Turner is more of a Billy Bragg. He's got the personable personality, go anywhere, busk anywhere gig mentality, a bit of politics and a few love songs.

He's also picked up on the Woody Guthrie slogan "This machine kills fascists" and subverted it to "This machine kills Hippies". The original was good enough for the guitars of Guthrie, Bragg and Strummer. I suppose you could also put a "This guitar kills fascists" sticker on a cappuccino maker or a vacuum cleaner....but it wouldn't feel quite right.

While Bragg worked to 77 style Punk Principles and took The Clash as inspiration, Frank Turner used the work ethic and discipline of 80's inspirational and confrontational California Punks Black Flag. He told Radio 1 that his version of Folk "took the things that people in Punk talked about and actually did it instead of just talking about it"

My favourite Frank track has to be Thatcher Fucked The Kids. Music and swearing is just a timeless and classic combination. This song is making the perceptive (and screamingly obvious point) that if you spend 10 years denying there's such as thing as society then you end up with the society you deserve....but with swearing and a bit of humorous misanthropy.

"Whatever happened to childhood?

We're all scared of the kids in our neighbourhood;

They're not small, charming and harmless,

They're a violent bunch of bastard little shits.

And anyone who looks younger than me

Makes me check for my wallet, my phone and my keys,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjfSucUhJiQ

Million Dead split up in 2005 after 2 albums and non musical differences, but Frank had already been playing some solo shows as a sideline. He released the Campfire Punk Rock 4 track on Xtra Mile recordings in 2006, followed by a shared 12 inch vinyl release with Jonah Matranga where the artists did 2 covers each. Turner did The Outdoor Type by The Lemonheads and You Are My Sunshine, while Matranga, tellingly, did Billy Bragg's A New England

The album Sleep Is For The Week was released in January this year.

On Nashville Tennessee he makes the (fair) point that he's not pretending to be something that he's not. "I was raised in middle England, not in Nashville Tennessee...A simple scale on an old guitar and a Punk Rock sense of honesty"

Again it's the Bragg/Busker mentality that you have to engage with an audience, to entertain them but you also need them to trust you. Oh yes...And you've got to entertain them....again!

You can do songs that are reflective and soul searching. Songs that are brutally honest about the state of your naval....but you've got to handle all the fluff and stuff carefully.

In an interview in DrownedInSound he said "Songs, and people, are thoroughly fucking dull if they can't laugh at themselves. That's the whole problem with Damien Rice - it's so fucking doe-eyed and self-serious, it just makes me want to vomit.

“Honestly, if you met someone with the personality of a James Blunt song, you'd fucking punch them in the throat at the first available opportunity, right? If you want to make a point, showing you're human before doing so is a good plan".

Black Flag would spend 200 days a year touring, often playing 2 shows a day to cater for both under 21's and legal US beer drinkers., as documented in Henry Rollins Book about his days in the band Get In The Van. As a solo artist Turner has notched up a fair few gigs.

"Sometimes people offer me "beer, probably" to come play a houseparty in Cumbria or something. No. I'm getting a little pickier in my old age... I think I've paid my dues as it were. I have played some insane places in my time. As I enter the second half of my twenties I'm hoping to leave behind playing house shows in the middle of nowhere"

As a performer he is engaging, and the Hardcore/folk switch doesn't sound so strange when you think of the likes of Seth Lakeman trying to make a great big racket out of a small sound. But here's the thing.....on this video for Million Dead's 2003 I Am The Party ....Is this the worlds happiest Hardcore frontman? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxLtZmSCAg8

The band Rock mightily and Turner's vocals sound great but he doesn't look like the typical Hardcore frontman. Where's the screwey faced rage? Where are the big shorts? Will there be a stewards inquiry and a leg tattoo inspection?

So maybe folky Levellers troubadour isn't such a giant leap for him. Anyway in the buskers tradition, if he's doing a show, he'll do it right here...and probably for The Kids. But not for the one's who are trying to nick his wallet.

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