Kev Eddy 13/02/2007
An Open Letter to Mr Turner
I've got a lot of time for you, Mr Turner. I hugely enjoy the 'punk folk' furrow you've been ploughing since before the end of Million Dead. In fact you could say your music has been one of my favourite things of the last year or so: yes, partly because it feels like you're a Billy Bragg for the web generation, but also because you're not just that. Your tales of urban, suburban and indeed rural life ring true, with good-natured wit and a healthy dollop of self-deprecation. Indeed, upon hearing your paean to hardcore punk, Back in the Day, I had one of those rare moments when you feel as though a song has been written just for you.
But I've got a problem, Frank. It sort of started on the day I rushed out and bought your album. There was a fear, a concern that crept upon me as I listened - almost a bad taste in my mouth. You see, the spark that was there on your EP, Campfire Punkrock, seemed to be - well - muted. Subdued. Some would say overproduced. I listened again and again, but it didn't get any better.
It's ok, I thought. Frank's basically a live act - he's a hell of a live act. Recordings don't really capture the core of what he's all about. It'll all be fine at the next gig - just him and his guitar, he'll strip it all right back and the passion, the rough edges and the fury will be there.
Well, Frank. I'm really sorry to say this, but it wasn't all fine. I can see that the Borderline was your biggest gig to date, and it was important that you make a great showing. And I also know Dive Dive are your mates, and you've played with them before. Don't get me wrong, I think they're an okay band. I'm not overly enamoured of their Hundred Reasons-meets-Jimmy Eat Word brand of punk rock, but they do it well - and the instrumental song they played at the end of their set rivalled Fugazi's finest moments in its sheer cacophony. However, every time they came on stage to back you up during your set, my heart sank. Because it destroyed that spark, Frank. It turned you into just another singer-songwriter with a backing band.
Now, you see, looking back on it, I doubt myself. Everyone else there seemed to be enjoying it - perhaps I missed the point? Perhaps I'm in the wrong. But when I think back to Ladies of London Town, and the 'ooooo-ooooo-oooooo' backing vocals, I cringe. When I remember you singing about your band getting real far - only to insist the only person in your band is you - on Nashville Tennessee, the sentiment rings hollow. And when I recall that burst of completely gratuitous mouth organ on Back in the Day, I physically flinch.
You know, it wasn't all bad. Those songs you played alone onstage - just you and your beat-up guitar, with the Black Flag logo inscribed in the bottom corner - they had it. The power, the passion - it came back. But, ultimately, it was all soured. Because of the encore. Why do the encore, Frank? It was pretend. It wasn't authentic.
And, I guess, that's what's really bothering me. Up until Tuesday night, you seemed authentic - you seemed as though you really meant it all, that it wasn't just an act to sell records. You were one of the good guys. Now, I'm not so sure anymore - and I hope you prove me wrong.