Sound — 9
Much like "Poetry Of The Deed", Frank Turner's 4th full album is a mostly band-orientated effort, but unlike his previous album it effectively conveys Turner's personality and individuality - perhaps his two most endearing traits. "England Keep My Bones" is almost certainly Turner's most accomplished work musically; across the 13 tracks he effectively displays a range of talents and styles without alienating one track from another, aided by his band, who here are better than ever before. The album opens with the classic and unmistakable sound of an English brass band in "Eulogy", before the memorable lead single "Peggy Sang The Blues" brings the album to life. This is straight-up anthemic rock n' roll but with Frank Turner's unmistakable folky twist. This is also notable as a song with an excellent bassline, my compliments to Turner's bandmate there. The toured and tested "I Still Believe" is next. With it's "Hear Ye" refrain and stirring vocal performance this is an obvious crowd pleaser and on reflection, one of the album's best songs. "If Ever I Stray" is in much the same vein as this; catchy, uplifting, and in a strange way nostalgic. This is music to make you smile. However, efforts such as "I Am Disappeared" and perhaps most strikingly "One Foot Before The Other" see Turner venture into a heavier, more epic sound, the latter song featuring some pretty impressive fuzz guitar. "English Curse" is another song that completely stands out with regards to experimentation as Turner goes a capella. This is not to say that fans of his older work should fear though. Each song is distinctly Frank Turner, and for those looking for more safe ground, "Rivers" and "Nights Become Days" echo "Sleep Is For The Week". His sound remains entirely unique and unconcerned by the mainstream, perhaps strange as he has been lingering on the outskirts for a while. For sticking firmly to his principles, I heartily commend Frank Turner, not that I would expect anything less of him.
Lyrics — 10
Frank Turner is an excellent lyricist, and anyone who has heard even one of his songs will already know that. Maybe his one issue though, is in the repetition of lyrical themes. As on previous albums, the idea of "my home" is frequent; "Rivers" offers nothing new and "Wessex Boy" is self-explanatory. "I Am Disappeared" explores similar content, but in a more creative way, describing people as "electric pulses in the pathways of the sleeping soul of the country". "English Curse" is another typical Turner effort about stealing an Englishman's land (see "Sons Of Liberty") but the a capella vocals stop it from becoming filler. It is the personal and honest nature of his lyrics though that keep listeners like me coming back for more. Turner wears his influences on his sleeve; Freddie Mercury, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are all referenced on "England Keep My Bones" whilst a less familiar influence (apparently his grandmother) is present in "Peggy Sang The Blues". The aspect of honesty arrives in "Redemption" "I can't stand what I've done to you" and "Glory Hallelujah" where he is at his most blunt "There never was no God". So whilst Turner's lyrics themselves are consistent as ever, it is the way they are delivered that makes it again, his best effort yet. Never before has Turner been this catchy and anthemic; his "Hear Ye"s and "1234!"s are simply irresistible. He is also complimented wonderfully by his bandmates and in the last track, a choir. Frank Turner has indeed experimented with every aspect of his music here and perhaps in the vocals more than anything else, he has been extremely successful.
Overall Impression — 10
It's a joy to behold when an album really comes together. On "England Keep My Bones" Frank Turner has created 13 songs that suit the Shakespearian title perfectly. They are thoroughly English, modern yet traditional, nostalgic and for the most part, uplifting. Every single song has its individual charms, yet they all merge inconspicuously, just as any good rock album should be. Whilst I'm struggling to pick any stand-out tracks, this is largely because I'm struggling to note any flaws. Whilst some songs are less memorable than others, they are essential in that they create the perfect mix of light and shade which makes "England Keep My Bones" Frank Turner's best album so far, and one of the best albums I have heard in a long time. His influences, all the way back to Shakespeare, would be proud.