Arriving just in time for Christmas, Frank Turner’s Songbook offers fans a look back at the folk-punk troubadour’s catalogue. It mixes a selection from his six studio albums, new song There She Is, and a bonus disc of re-invented staples. His debut and third albums are given a track each – (by The Ballad of Me & My Friends and The Road respectively) – with more focus put on newer albums Positive Songs… and Tape Deck Heart. Fans of the artist should find a lot to re-discover, with the bonus Songbook versions offering a fresh insight into his work.
As a an newbie’s introduction to Frank Turner, the album does a fine job of cherry-picking some of his best work. His unique lyrical approach blends wit (“We’re almost on the guestlist / But we’re always stuck in traffic.”) and emotion (“You’ll live to dance another day / It’s just now you’ll have to dance for the two of us”). With a shouty bar-room drawl borrowed from his punk days, his voice is expressive and emotional, occasionally dropping to a confessional whisper for the heartfelt tracks. He’s ably supported by his band, whose style veers from harder edged pop punk (Four Simple Words), to slower acoustic numbers (The Ballad of Me & My Friends). New track There She Is is a straightforward pop throwaway – and as is typical of greatest-hits tack-ons – hardly essential.
The Songbook versions on the bonus disc finds Turner revisiting some of his older tunes with a more mature sound. An emotional, stripped down version of Polaroid Pictures stands out as one of the highlights. Overall, the bonus tracks (and album) offer an intriguing insight into where Turner has come from, with a few hints at where he’s going next.