Over the last few days on Upside Down Shark, I’ve been counting down my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs (previous parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Today, we begin my Top 20, and the songs contained from here on out make up the hardest part of the whole process for me. In truth, a good number of the songs listed in today’s part and tomorrow’s finale could switch places depending on the day or my mood. With that said, I’m happy with the positions these songs have landed in, and don’t think any would move too far were I to try and make the list again in 6 months or so. Here we go then, here are numbers 20 through 11!
20. Love Forty Down – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘In the time it takes for the serve to rise and fall, we'll find out if I am man or mouse, if I am set to rise or fall’
Following the general theme of the songs on PS4NP (wanting to get better after a rough patch), ‘Love Forty Down’ is about the singer finding himself in a position where the odds are massively stacked against him, in a situation where he knows he needs to ultimately win if he’s going to move on. As the title suggests, it illustrates this via comparisons to a tennis match, with references to common tennis terms (deuce, umpires, etc) peppered throughout for good measure. It’s not as cheesy as it sounds.
It’s pretty standard fare for Frank, led by the acoustic guitar with the full band there to drive the background rather than grab your attention. It’s just good fun really. Bonus points to the jangly piano which fits in to the song very snugly.
19. Glorious You – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘So, come on now if we all pull together, we can lift up the weight of the world from your shoulders’
‘Glorious You’ is one of the straighter Rock-focussed songs in Frank’s catalogue, albeit still finding time to add in what ends up sounding like a gospel choir for backing vocals in the chorus (although I don’t think this actually was a gospel choir), giving it something of a perhaps unexpected divine feeling.
Reasonably unique on the album, this is a song far more about wanting to help someone else rather than yourself. The lyrics suggest the subject of the song likely takes on a fair number of responsibilities and perhaps struggles with their own perceived failings a little too much. The singer, in response, wants to help them through this patch and show them they don’t need to be too hard on themselves. An incredibly uplifting song.
18. One Foot Before the Other – England Keep My Bones
‘I remain. I am remembered’
An oddly short lyric quote for this entry, but it encapsulates what this song really boils down to – wanting yourself and your legacy to be remembered once you are gone. It may also seem odd to say that there are a lot of lyrics in this song, and that to take the majority of them out of the context of the song will really give very little in the way of indication as to what this song actually is.
It’s a reasonably heavy song for Frank, mostly brought about by the bassline that is thundering almost entirely throughout. The musical canvas behind the lyrics really helps to drive home the message of the song, to the point where you genuinely believe these are instructions Frank is giving to be carried out following his death (which is hopefully a LONG way off).
17. Vital Signs – Sleep Is for The Week
‘This country is my canvas. I leave paint trails as I go. I’m painting a picture that you can only see from outer space’
The highest-ranking song from Frank’s debut album on my list, ‘Vital Signs’ is reasonably similar in tone to the previous entry, ‘One Foot Before the Other’. Both deal with legacy in the time after you’re gone, however, opposed to the more angsty tone Frank takes in the previous song, ‘Vital Signs’ sees Frank saying he’ll be perfectly happy as long as ‘the song remains, and everybody’s got a drink and a smile’.
There’s a really lovely violin line underscoring parts of this song, which brings an added layer of warmth and I’d argue even brings perhaps a tone of nostalgia to it all – in a way that might make you look back on certain things in your own life fondly. Or maybe it won’t, maybe that’s just me. It’s a song that makes me think of being out in the countryside, Sun shining and not having a care in the world.
16. We Shall Not Overcome – Tape Deck Heart
‘The bands I like, they don’t sell too many records and the girls I like, they don’t kiss too many boys’
Now, it may be the case that some people don’t know this song, and seeing it listed as on ‘Tape Deck Heart’ may be just as confusing. This is one of 6 songs included on the Deluxe edition of the album, and as far as I am aware, they’ve not been released anywhere else subsequently (so far, anyway). As such, if you’ve not heard those 6 songs, go and do so. They are all pretty great. It just so happens this is the only one of them that’s made my list.
A song on the subject of how no-one is perfect, and not all things that we do are to serve some final purpose, and how that is actually completely ok. Sometimes, in fact quite often, it’s good to just do things because you can, rather than to try and reach some final goal. You don’t always have to meet the expectations that life throws at you, sometimes it’s best to just do and be what you need to.
15. Brave Face – Be More Kind
‘Put on your brave face, honey, your brave face, honey, and get ready for the end of the world’
And so, the highest-ranking song from ‘Be More Kind’ comes in at Number 15, and it’s ‘Brave Face’. From the first time I heard this song just over a year ago now, I knew it was going to be a favourite of mine, in fact it outranked the second highest rated song from the album (‘Little Changes’) by 26 places! Which I do want to point out is no reflection on the album, I really do love it.
‘Brave Face’ Is an incredibly joyous song, and is something of an anthem for pumping yourself up and getting ready to tackle that thing you’ve been nervous about. My favourite part of the song is the call and response between Frank and a genuine gospel choir (*Ahem* looking at you, ‘Glorious You’*) which fills the majority of the final minute of the song, and serves as a spectacular finale to a spectacular song.
14. Photosynthesis – Love Ire & Song
‘And I won’t sit down. And I won’t shut up. and most of all, I will not grow up’
Now, this may be controversial. I know, how is ‘Photosynthesis’ not even in the Top 10?!?! I thought it would be too, but here we are! For me, there are 2 songs in the running as to what Frank’s signature song would be, and this is definitely one of them. I think, for me at least, this one would take the title quite happily (in spite of the fact that the other contender is still to come in this list). A song on the subject of being told to conform to the norm of a typical adult life, and the defiance you hold inside against the notion that anyone thinks that’s the life you should lead.
Well, what is there to say about ‘Photosynthesis’ that hasn’t already been said in the nearly 11 years that’s it’s been out in the world? Not a lot really. I’m sure a lot of people, myself included, have the message to this song ingrained in their head, likely to stay for life. I’d go so far as to say that this song even gave me pause to realise that I’ve got one life and I’d sooner live it my way than ever have to exist in a form that drags me down.
Plus, it’s really catchy innit?
13. The Next Storm – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘I don’t want to spend the whole of my life inside. I want to step out and face the sunshine’
We’ve all been there, right? We’ve had a wobble in life, and following it have just stayed inside avoiding contact for a bit because we don’t want to burden the world with our presence. This song deals with that exact thinking, and the want to get up from these feelings and re-enter the world, perhaps not fully mended yet, but ready to be so.
The definite highlight for me is the piano, not necessarily leading the charge of the song, but remaining present throughout the majority of the runtime. As well as this, the bridge refrain of ‘Rejoice! Rebuild! The storm has passed!’ is an almost euphoric moment in any Frank live show (although, let’s be honest, most of his songs have one of those moments you just need to belt out at the top of your lungs).
12. I Still Believe – England Keep My Bones
‘Now who’d have thought, that after all, something as simple as Rock ‘n’ Roll would save us all?’
Here we have another song that might have people scratching their heads at the fact it didn’t make the Top 10. Again, I’m as surprised as you are, I thought it was a shoo-in. Following up on the point I started for ‘Photosynthesis’, ‘I Still Believe’ is the other song that I would say is in with a shout as Frank’s signature song. It’s definitely probably his most well-known – he played it live at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony to an estimated global audience of 900 million people!
Lyrically, the song is very much a love letter to Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the almost religious devotion so many people have towards it as a concept, sound and genre. Frank effectively takes the role of town crier here, with most lines in the verses beginning with either the words ‘hear ye, hear ye’ or ‘come ye, come ye’. Above all else, the lyrics really do shine through on this track, it’s not necessarily a call to arms, but a shout to anyone willing to listen about how lucky we all are to have this community, and the soundtrack to go along with it.
11. Losing Days – Tape Deck Heart
‘I keep losing days that used to take a lifetime, in the blinking of an eye’
As the title suggests, this is very much a song about how quickly life and time seems to start passing you by as you get older. It’s an unfortunate truth that I don’t think you really believe until you start to feel it happen to yourself. The lyrics also take a poignant look back at youth, and express something of a sadness that things you could do when you were younger and bounce back from with ease, would now likely become lasting issues.
In spite of the lyric’s apparent nostalgic dejection, the music is inherently upbeat, with old friend the mandolin in effect serving as the main riff of the song. The music, in actuality to me, even adds a quality to the lyrics that takes away from the perceived sadness, and maybe adds a ‘ha, what was I like?’ type of flippancy to the whole affair.
And so, we arrive at the end of the penultimate part, and the fourth 10 entries, of my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs. I reckon that there’s at least starting to be a reasonable crossover in the songs appearing in our respective lists at this point? I definitely think that’ll be the case come tomorrow. So, join me tomorrow for the final part of my list, to see which fan-favourite Frank songs didn’t make my list at all, and more importantly, see what I have decided are my Top 10 Frank Turner songs!
(EDIT: You can find the final part of my list here)
By Matt Dobbie