Sound — 8
In terms of sound, it's as-you-were for the acoustic punk-folk singer-songwriter former hardcore troubadour and his back up outfit, the now well-established Sleeping Souls. It's a "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach that the Arctic Monkeys chucked out the window with Humbug but which has been working damn well for AC/DC these last 40 years. Do not buy this album if you're after screaming guitar solos, or guitar solos full-stop, for that matter, but if acoustic guitars with background keyboards and the occasional mandolin is your thing then you should get on well with this. The Sleeping Souls and the music behind Turner's lyrics have grown with every album since "Poetry Of The Deed", and this is by far their fullest contribution. It will always be Frank's name on the sleeve, but they sound more and more like an out-and-out band with every effort. Variety is provided by the harder "Four Simple Words" (which does a sterling job of allowing the man to continue using the "punk" tag) and the haunting, piano-based (oddly...) denouement, "Broken Piano". The latter, providing you don't get the deluxe version with the extra tracks, returns "Tape Deck Heart" to the Turner strategy of ending albums with ballads, the subject of whether or not there is a God having been nicely laid to rest with "England Keep My Bones". Overall, nothing ground-breaking, but totally solid musically. The music has always taken a back seat to the lyrics with Frank Turner albums, and so it is here.
Lyrics — 7
This is where it gets interesting. There have always been personal songs in Frank Turner albums - too many to mention, in fact, although "The Ballad Of Me And My Friends" (now an anthem amongst Turner fans) from debut album "Sleep Is For The Week" is probably a good start. "Faithful Son". "Long Live The Queen". "Worse Things Happen At Sea". "Redemption". The list is endless and is perhaps part of Turner's appeal - you know he means what he's singing because it has so obviously come from personal experience. More than that, many of his "personal" songs on previous records have been extremely easy to relate to, the aforementioned Ballad being a prime example ("We're definitely going to hell..."). "Tape Deck Heart", however, takes it that step further. The lyrics are not just personal, at times it's like listening to the man singing excerpts from his diary. In particular, "Tell Tale Signs" takes you on an extremely intimate journey. Names are named. Teenage self-harm is described without the courtesy of cotton-wool or anything else to ease the blow, besides the melody. This is fine for a die-hard, but I can imagine it coming across as fawning, even maybe self-obsessive to a first time listener. Although I suppose Morrissey is/was popular so that may not matter much. Elsewhere, although it's easy to see where the singles are going to come from ("Recovery", "The Way I Tend To Be", "Four Simple Words") there are less stand-out sing-along tracks than previous albums, especially "Love, Ire And Song". The song most likely to get new listeners interested is "Four Simple Words" (there's even a hint of a guitar solo!) which, as mentioned before, maintains the punk affiliations whilst having a pop at "lacklustre scenesters from Shoreditch" and quite rightly asking "if the hipsters move on why should I give a f--k?!". That kind of line is what you listen to Frank Turner for: all pretence at singing is dropped. The question is put directly, even growled at you, with a special type of conviction that makes people sit up and listen. It's an album that deserves more than one listen, for sure, although as mentioned it's easy to imagine people who have never listened to Turner before listening once, being underwhelmed and not listening again. The mandatory mark is given purely on that basis, established fans will have no trouble with it.
Overall Impression — 8
As a progression of Frank Turner's career, the album makes a lot of sense. It's a look-back, a reflection of where he's been and what he's done. It is far less direct and more difficult to relate to than other albums, but also more subtle musically. Not one to convert people, then, but established fans (who, as a rule, are generally loyal to a fault anyway) will not be disappointed after 3 or 4 listens. The album is difficult to pin down but once you get over some of the bluntness, or at least forthrightness of the lyrics, you do begin to empathise. Again, if you're new, look up "Four Simple Words" on YouTube or buy "Love, Ire And Song", it must be cheap as hell by now. Otherwise, this album is best approached with caution and an open mind.