Sound — 6
Frank Turner started out as a straight edge punk rock kid in a post-hardcore band called Million Dead, but the band dissolved and he began a solo career as a singer/songwriter that is pretty far from the intense straight edge punk rock scene he was previously part of. Million Dead formed in 2000 and released 3 studio albums and several EPs and singles before they broke up in 2005, due to irreconcilable differences just like an angry divorce, but without actually airing their dirty laundry. Frank began listening to more acoustic music and singer/songwriters during this time and decided that he no longer wanted to be in a band because of the negative experience of the breakup of Million Dead. Around this time, he began working on solo material with his first solo album, "Sleep Is for the Week," coming out in 2007. Frank began releasing music very regularly, averaging just shy of an album a year. He has since put together a backing band, called the Sleeping Souls. "Positive Songs for Negative People" is the sixth album by Frank Turner, with 12 tracks and an approximate runtime of just under 40 minutes. A deluxe version of the album includes acoustic versions of 10 of the songs from the album.
The album opens up with the track, "The Angel Islington," which sounds like it was recorded live with a lo-fi room mic, but lyrically and harmonically it is a solid track, though the presentation is kind of boring. "Get Better" is self-evidently the strongest song from the album, which is themed on it not being too late to "get better" since life isn't over yet. "The Next Storm" is a fairly strong song on the album as well, with a sparsely-repeated guitar melody being probably the definitive element of the song. "The Opening Act of Spring" very much has a Irish folk song sound to it. "Glorious You" is probably one of the more "folk punk" songs on the album. "Mittens" is vaguely reminiscent of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," though I'm not sure if this is on purpose of not as it is a winter-themed song. "Out of Breath" is about as close as Frank gets to punk rock on the album, with his vocals actually sounding almost punk rock like his work with Million Dead back in the "good ole days." "Demons" seems to sound very familiar, and I keep going back to "I'll Be There for You" by the Rembrandts, but that isn't quite right - though there are some similarities. "Josephine" is another track that has that punk folk thing going on pretty strongly - and has a forlorn love song vibe going on, though lyrically it is a pretty dark track. "Love Forty Down" sounds like "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons, and at this point I'm feeling like Frank Turner might be picking up some subconscious influences in his music. "Silent Key" has an intro that reminds me of another song from the '90s that I can't place, then from there he reminds me of Jim Carroll's music with a lot of the rest of the song. The album closes out with "Song for Josh," which is a sad song about a friend who committed suicide, and is really a very pretty song.
Lyrics — 7
Frank Turner's actual vocal performance was adequate, but not mind-blowing or especially rich or even very emotive. I have appreciated some of Frank's earlier work, and I've especially appreciated his work with Million Dead, but this album was a letdown both vocally and lyrically for me. The album has a loose theme related to getting over loss, though many of the songs sound musically too dense or happy to express the sadness the lyrics seem to be trying to express. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from "Song for Josh," which is one of the best songs, and definitely the most sincere from the album: "Why didn't you call/ My phone's always on/ Why didn't you call/ Before you got gone/ And I can't say for certain what I would have said/ But now I am helplessly silent instead/ There's a hole in my heart and in my head/ Why didn't you call/ Why didn't you say something on the last time we met/ Why didn't you say something/ There's always hope left/ And I can't say for certain what I would have done/ But I can't do anything now that you're gone/ And it kills me to think that for a second you felt alone."
Overall Impression — 6
I don't think my opinion is the popular opinion, but I really think this is one of Frank Turner's weakest albums. I had a hard time even writing the review for this album, as a felt a large portion of the album was extremely derivative of other popular music - as if Frank listened to the radio and skipped through a few different formatted stations, then hit the studio and wrote some new songs. I wasn't impressed with this album musically or vocally, though lyrically it is much more solid. I would recommend for established fans, but maybe this isn't an album to win over new fans.