This week I was very excited when an LP shaped package bearing an Xtra Mile Recordings sticker found its way through my letterbox, and that was because I knew it contained my signed copy of Frank Turner’s debut record, Sleep Is For The Week, on vinyl, and personally signed by the man himself.
This special edition of the record came about through Xtra Mile’s Pledgmusic.com campaign to re-press some of the stock lost to a warehouse fire during the London riots in summer 2011, through which I also received the Reuben collection, We Should Have Gone To College.
So I thought, why not, I’ll take a look back at Frank’s debut and see how it stands up five years after its first release.
It’s clear from the start that while Frank’s sound has developed over the years his main preoccupations and themes have stayed remarkably true to where they set out with life on the road, cultural identity and his personal life all featuring, albeit in slightly different ways to the material on his latest album England Keep My Bones.
Much like his more recent offerings, the songs here range from solo acoustic guitar and vocal numbers to tracks featuring a prototype version of the band now known as The Sleeping Souls, though here bass, guitar and an extensive range of other guitar-like string instruments are all played by Frank himself.
The songs here also feature a wide variety of tempos with some roaring along at break neck punk pace (Back In The Day), while others take a slower more mellow (The Ladies of London Town) or, at times, melancholy (A Decent Cup Of Tea), approach, but this gives the record a real depth rarely found on debut recordings and hints at the history in music Frank Turner already had, being former front man of post-hardcore band Million Dead.
The recording of the album is also a bit of a mixed bag with some of the tracks sounding like full on professional recordings and others having a hint of the DIY about them.
While on some albums this might be a problem here I find it gives a real sense of the man behind the music – some of these songs are designed as big full band pieces while others (the aforementioned A Decent Cup Of Tea, for example) are so personal anything but a seemingly crude recording of one man and his acoustic guitar would give the song the same power it has here.
Another stand out track on the album for me is the other particularly differently recorded one, The Ballad Of Me And My Friends, which is a live recording from the Barfly in Camden in 2006 and features a brilliant guest spot from the audience and serves to show why then, and now, Frank Turner is true to that punk ethos that really, it’s about the connection with the crowd, more than anything else.
When I first heard Frank Turner (though his Poetry of the Deed album) I remarked that he sounded, to me, like real soul music, and looking back on Sleep Is For The Week, I still have the feeling, this is a great record that speaks to the punk and folk spirits within me and is a clear starting point for the now arena level act Frank Turner has become.