Album review: Frank Turner – Undefeated

On his 10th full-length, Frank Turner demonstrates that even after almost two decades of doing this, he’s still got plenty more to give…

Album review: Frank Turner – Undefeated
Mischa Pearlman

Since disbanding his post-hardcore outfit Million Dead in 2005 to launch his solo career, Frank Turner has asserted himself as one of the UK’s most engaging live performers. He’s also written some absolute classics: The Road, I Am Disappeared, Substitute, I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous, Mittens, The Way I Tend To Be, Photosynthesis and I Still Believe are all surely up there with some of the best songs recorded by a British artist in the past two decades. And even if he’s distanced himself from early cut Thatcher Fucked The Kids, it remains a perceptive analysis of how decades of Tory politics and trickle-down economics have left the UK in a state of absolute ruin.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t also been misses throughout the years, though. English Curse, Sons Of Liberty and A Wave Across The Bay – Frank’s well-intentioned but slightly misguided tribute to Frightened Rabbit’s late frontman Scott Hutchison – are three that didn’t quite hit their intended mark, but generally the good has outweighed the not-so-good.

Undefeated is the 42-year-old’s 10th full-length, and starts with an ode to naysayers – both in general as well as those that Frank seems to have collected throughout his years as a songwriter. It’s a jovial blast of defiance, which is actually an apt description of the self-produced, self-recorded album as a whole. Never Mind The Back Problems is a tongue-in-cheek testimonial to being an aging punk, No Thank You For The Music a boisterous self-reflective indictment of music gatekeepers (which presumably includes those who review them), and Girl From The Record Shop pays tribute to so many classic punk and rock’n’roll tunes that someone even made a whole Spotify playlist of those it sounds similar to. Of course, as a steadfast punk and rock’n’roll fan, this is undoubtedly homage and tribute on Frank’s part – a nod to the legacy of rock’n’roll and the way it has always borrowed/stolen – rather than a cynical rip-off.

Elsewhere, album highlight Letters is a moving rush of anthemic nostalgia, East Finchley is a gorgeous, tender lament to lost time and lost youth, and On My Way a raw, downtempo love song full of both intention and regret.

Raw, in fact, is a good way to describe much of this album. Likely a result of the self-production, it feels very real and close to who Frank truly is – especially on the gentle penultimate track, Somewhere Inbetween, another song which seems to reference the perception people on the outside have of him, and the closing title-track, a heart-torn, piano-led track that pines over the hardships in life and the ravaging effects of time.

Letters aside, it’s the quieter, gentler songs that work best on this record, that peer more deeply into Frank’s soul. And while Undefeated might only contain a couple of songs that could comfortably sit alongside that list of FT classics, it’s clear he’s still putting his heart and soul into his art.

Verdict: 3/5

For Fans Of: Against Me!, Dave Hause, The Menzingers

Undefeated is released on May 3 via Xtra Mile

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