“Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do / I’ve spent a little time in worried shoes / I wore them out through walking / It wasn’t any use / Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do.”
And so begins Frank Turner’s remarkable album Be More Kind — a manifesto for our times. There are a number of albums that have come out this year that I enjoy and applaud as fully conceived works, but I’m hard pressed to think of any as timely — in thoughts, messages, emotions, mood, and temperament — as this one.
It is a record full of feels, so it should come as no surprise to you In-My-Ear regulars that I am all over this shit.
Lyrically, the album is a broadside on the alt-right, fascist, nativist, hard-right conservative movements that are bubbling over in the U.S., Britain, and so much of the world. But, it’s not a political album as much as it is a discussion on morality and a rallying cry to reclaim our individual and collective humanity back from the people, movements, partisan flamethrowers, and social media echo chambers who have claimed it.
Remarkably, given the topics Turner addresses, this an optimistic, hopeful record — lyrically and musically. The songs aren’t dark or brooding; there aren’t many minor chords and, in fact, some songs are downright bubbly. While there is certainly a lot of fatalism running throughout, Turner more often than not celebrates and calls on our better natures, promising he’ll be there and seeking to uplift even as he urges us not to go down without a fight despite (and, actually, because) everything is fucked.
1933 and Be More Kind are two of the lead singles that capture much of the scope and spectrum of this record. 1933 is the album’s loudest track and the one that most recalls Turner’s unvarnished punk roots. It also includes one of the best lyric lines of the album (and perhaps the year), “Don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn.”
Be More Kind, on the other hand, gives way for gently strummed chords, softened vocals, and a simple request repeated with urgency and caring.
The entire album is made up of songs like these. Wonderful songs. Songs that make me think; make me consider the world around me. And, most importantly, songs that leave me feeling refreshed and encouraged and compassionate and joyful in the face of a world that is offering little in return. These are the gifts of this record, as I expect Frank Turner hoped they would be.