Rock & Roll EP
Quietly becoming the torch carrier of punks who choose an acoustic guitar to convey their ire — somewhere down the line from Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, Mike Ness and Ani DiFranco — Frank Turner has slipped another timeless nugget onto the virtual shelves in the way of the five-song EP Rock ‘n’ Roll. Released as an in-between from his 2009 full length Poetry of the Dead and the upcoming, as yet untitled, Epitaph Records 2011 release, the fast-paced and fast recorded (a man like Turner needs little more than three days to throw together such a minor masterpiece) short album bleeds with the vitality of a young songwriter who’s spent the better part of the last decade on the road — either with his old hardcore band Million Dead, or solo. In the midst of the songs’ urgency is the autobiographical, soul bearing core that lies at the heart of every Frank Turner composition.
Opening strong with the only song scheduled to also appear on his upcoming full length, “I Still Believe” serves as a nostalgic, throw-your-arm-around-your-buddy, celebratory song about an old, but true, cliché — the power of rock ‘n’ roll. Music as a savior, music as a release, music as an outlet for every waking moment of our tumultuous lives — Turner embraces the declaration with fervor and you just can’t help but fall in love with every impassioned note.
“Pass It Along” and “Rock & Roll Romance” are a pair of quiet ballads, both gorgeously aching. The latter bares shades of Elliot Smith’s sadness, with words that paint a picture of unrequited love that’s right in front of your face but you don’t see because you’re too busy complaining about your life. In under two minutes, this melancholic gem almost steals the spotlight from the rest of the record.
The piano-pounding urgency of “To Absent Friend” is the hardest hitting track on here, but stands out mostly because it’s so out of left field in comparison with the otherwise unhurried pace of the EP. It’s got its charm, but it doesn’t have the naked heart of the closing song, “The Next Round.” In the tradition of Flogging Molly’s “Float,” it’s a folk rock admission of finding courage, solace, or comfort in a bottle. Slowed down to a country pace and absolutely crimson with confession, if this doesn’t break your heart, then you may want to check your pulse.
Of all of Frank Turner’s releases thus far, this is the one that comes closest to capturing the invigorating and close-knit nature of his live show.
Frank Turner: www.frank-turner.com