Frank Turner is no stranger to this whole music thing. His road to get to now was just a slight bit unconventional. You see, Turner’s first music love was Iron Maiden metal. Yes, the picture above does juxtapositional wonders: tattoos on his fingers hugging an acoustic guitar. His folk fervor came after his initial band, Million Dead – a post-hardcore effort with songs like “Murder and Create” and “Pornography for Cowards” – split up. After coming across Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Turner had an apotheosis: fuse his hardcore roots with a punk-infused folk style and see what comes of it. Five albums later and fit with a full backing band, The Sleeping Souls, Turner has just reached the pinnacle of his solo career with his 2013 effort Tape Deck Heart, which coincidentally was inspired by another break up; this split was of the love variety.
Turner, of Meonstroke, Hampshire, has developed a unique style based on his illustrious and diverse career. It seems that when you blend hardcore and folk together, you get an esoteric form of punk. His music is laced with an acute acoustic vibe that maintains punk angst and power. Think Violent Femmes mixed with celtic punk mixed with Bob Dylan. It doesn’t seem to mesh, but Turner skillfully does it, and he does it particularly with the #4 song on our list – “Recovery.”
In 1962, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield penned the song “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” and this ditty concisely stated a fact of life. Breaking up is indeed hard to do. Turner wrote and recorded his new album after the collapse of a long-term relationship, and this adversity sparked some tremendous music. “Recovery” is not your usual break-up song, though. Turner’s lyric is jam-packed with candor and passion. In a sense, Turner, whose vocal is that of a strained raconteur, is pleading throughout the song, and the subject of his emotional petition is skillfully placed as the conclusion of the piece when he sings “Darling, sweet lover, won’t you help me to recover.”
Turner, in an ode to Dylan and other folk songs of the past, packs in so many words in each verse that the song plays like a short story. The music permits this lyrical burst. The Sleeping Souls help drive the piece, which is carried by a swinging piano and heavy percussion. The acoustic guitar glides with Turner’s busy vocal. Musically, the climax comes at around 2:15, when the Turner’s vocal falls out after the bridge in favor of a small piano solo and rising guitar. The strength of this song, though, is Turner’s masterful lyric.
Perhaps the strongest lyric is the full second verse.
“And I’ve been waking in the morning just like every other day
And just like every boring blues song I get swallowed by the pain
And so I fumble for your figure in the darkness just to make it go away.
But you’re not lying there any longer and I know that that’s my fault
So I’ve been pounding on the floor and I’ve been crawling up the walls
And I’ve been dipping in my darkness for serotonin boosters,
Cider and some kind of smelling salts.”
Fumbling for his ex-lover’s figure in a daze and then realizing that it was his fault that she is gone. Then following this pursuit by searching for anything (serotonin boosters, spiked cider, and smelling salts) to lift him up from the crippling depression he is feeling. Talk about truth, right? Turner does not want to paint an optimistic picture here. Before hitting the last chorus, where Turner sings of the long way to recovery, he croons, “Because I know you are a cynic but I think I can convince you. Yeah, cause broken people can get better if they really want to. Or at least that’s what I have to tell myself if I am hoping to survive!”
He, like most after break-ups, cannot shake the thought that perhaps if he changes he can convince his ex to come back. But, in honest fashion, he realizes that he is only telling this to himself to “survive.” He intertwines the metaphor of drowning into this piece, and that is a smart decision because while the listener drowns in the sound and words of this piece, Turner is quite literally drowning in his words, trying desperately to rise up into recovery but undergoing a song-wide realization that he may not be able to do it without his “darling, sweet lover.”