Album Review: Frank Turner – The Third Three Years

By on Friday, 28th November 2014 at 12:00 pm

Fandom is a weird thing. Most recently the world has been blighted by a plague of fangirls and boys, masquerading as Beliebers, Directoners and the 5SOS Family. Groups of people bombarding online platforms with inane drivel about these ‘bands’, followed by the occasional session of stalking. On the flipside of that, in a completely non-sinister way, Frank Turner has continued to inspire his own band of twenty-something fanatics who’ve lifted him to the heady heights of headlining Wembley and appearing at the 2012 London Olympics. It’s a completely different kind of fandom though, with just a hint of fanaticism. See, Frank Turner fans are less likely to have gelled hair stuck up like a half-pipe and are more likely to be wearing a Motorhead t-shirt, smoking a doob at a gig and telling you they don’t care about music until Kyuss reform and tour. But it’s this loyal cohort of Turnees (this is neither a thing, nor is it a word) who can be relied upon to get onboard with the ex-Million Dead frontman’s newest album, ‘The Third Three Years’.

I only say this, because as much fun as this record is, it’s just a glorified collection of acoustic covers, B-sides and live versions. It’s charming, there is no doubt. Hearing Turner emulate his heroes Bruce Springsteen on ‘Born to Run’, Freddie Mercury on ‘Somebody to Love’ and Paul McCartney on ‘Live and Let Die’ is a great bit of fun and will certainly pay off with his loyal following. But as a completely standalone album, it’s a little underwhelming, especially as it clocks in at well over an hour and it has some significant lull points. Which have you thinking, is this just a wee money spinner over the crimble period? But perhaps this is me just being a little bit too cynical.

On this record, Frank Turner does what he has been doing for the past decade, which is rewarding his loyal fanbase with a chest-load of gems and goodies. ‘Hits and Mrs’ is a delightfully Turner-esque song, where the Eton-educated frontman spins a yarn about feeling shit and then waking up with that special someone being there to make you feel good and give you cuddles. That’s a message we can all get onboard with. The final song on the album, a raucous live version of ‘Dan’s Song’ quite possibly encapsulates all that is good about the punk turned singer/songwriter. The folk sensibility, crossed with the kind of punk rock raucousness that reminds you of The Germs in their heyday. You’re instantly transported to the last time *you* went to a Turner gig (which, lucky for me, was at the place where he recorded the version of this song at the Engine Shed in Lincoln), and you instantly want to stand up tall and sing the final words of ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’.

Some of the original b-side tracks on this record stand out – in fact there’s a period on the album that feels like a full-on assault on Broken Britain: he blames the kids, their parents, the community leader, the media, politicians and just about everybody who lives on our ruddy rock. ‘Riot Song’ especially is a homage to the complete shitstorm that were the UK riots in 2011. Turner pretty much gives a run through of the entire hellish few nights: “last night the kids sent London alight / started out in Tottenham and the flames spread through the night / but they didn’t burn the banks down, and they didn’t fight the cops / they just burned down their own ends and robbed the shops”.

In hindsight, it’s easy to look back on this period and call on England’s community to rise up and help our fellow man. But at the time, let’s be honest – with kids causing absolute havoc on the streets and kicking anyone who moved funny, you can’t be lambasted for staying in your home and protecting your family – so on that side, I scorn at Turner’s cynicism. On the other side, I love the brutal honesty of how he’s explaining how there was no revolution, no real cause. Simply, “they just burned down their own ends and robbed the shops”. OK, the rhetoric in ‘Something of Freedom’, of pointing the finger at the yoofs is a bit tired, but some of the songwriting is absolute genius: “Yeah, you’re marching in matching Che Guevara t-shirts / it’s so damn conceited it’s starting to hurt / you’re born into freedom so you don’t know it’s worth / and you constantly speak of solutions / but you only repeat revolution”. It’s the silver-tongued Turner at his very, very best.

This is one for the fans. The people who love Frank Turner for his bare-faced wit, his endemic Britishness and his loyalty to the people who have brought him to the heady heights he is at now. So chuck that Motorhead t-shirt out of your sister’s Christmas stocking and grab a copy of ‘The Third Three Years’.

Actually, fuck it. Frank would want you to have both.


‘The Third Three Years’, a collection of b-sides, live cuts and rarities from Winchester singer/songwriter Frank Turner, is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings. Stream the piano version of ‘The Way I Tend to Be’ below.

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4:34 am
1st December 2014

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