The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Frank Turner – ‘No Man’s Land’ (Polydor / Xtra Mile)


In a sentence:

Quite aside from the backlash it’s generated, ‘No Man’s Land’ certainly represents an over-extension of Frank Turner’s emotional resources.

Singer-songwriter Frank Turner’s latest release, No Man’s Land, has sparked some controversy due to its thematic elements. The title itself is a tongue-in-cheek indication as to what this album tries to address, as No Man’s Land is Turner’s efforts to acknowledge historical female characters that he has drawn influence from. There’s a good intention behind Turner’s overly-English vocal delivery, but when the lyrical themes of this piece of work are combined with its unremarkable folk pop sound, the intended message is lost. The whole album instead comes across half-hearted, and almost as an attempt to prove that as a modern-thinking artist, Turner recognises the lack of recognition women of influence throughout history receive, as if this boosts his moral image.

From the backlash Frank Turner has so far received over the themes of No Man’s Land, many appear to agree that it’s not his place, nor really within his musical ability, to portray such characters within his songs, and as a result the music fundamentally lacks honesty. The lyrical material has some poetic quality on occasion – particularly the touching closer ‘Rosemary Jane’ about his mother – but there’s a large presence of facts and historical references from line to line in relation to the person being portrayed in each song, and the constant reinforcing of the context of the lyrics plays the largest part in stripping the music of much emotional value. It often feels as if Turner has taken upon the role of an over-enthusiastic history teacher, desperately attempting to spark interest in his students by writing the whole curriculum into verse, and subsequently forcing the class into singing about historical figures at the end of each lesson.

It’s not hard to imagine that Frank Turner would’ve predicted critical praise for attributing No Man’s Land to “forgotten” women, but instead he has received mixed reviews with a fair amount of listeners appearing offended by Turner “daring” to cover such topics. While it can be agreed that Turner has not exactly done these women a huge amount of justice with the music he has created, the whole premise of the album was always going to cause a whole load of cringe. There are enough men of somewhat celebrity status trying to prove how in touch they are by blatantly over-empathising with issues they have never experienced to appear as a “good guy”, when all this often does is demonstrate their lack of understanding. Yes, Turner should be addressing emotion that he can experience and, as a result, can accurately portray. However, No Man’s Land may be an indication he has exhausted his own emotional resources, and maybe trying to access and represent emotion he cannot relate to in an attempt to relate to a new audience? If so, it’s still fair to say that the themes behind No Man’s Land were a misstep. (3/10) (Jacob Kendrew)

Listen to No Man’s Land by Frank Turner here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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