Frank Turner is a busy man, following the release of his sixth album Positive Songs For Negative People last August he put out a vinyl box set compilation (The First Ten Years) and next month has a full length vinyl re-issue planned for Record Store Day. Nestled in-between is the digital only EP Mittens, which will satisfy his fan base's voracious appetite for new material. It's also another example that no matter how prolific the 34 year-old is, he's still got a few gems up his sleeve for releases like this.
Of the five songs presented here, the key track is the bittersweet piano ballad 'Little Aphrodite'. It's a distant cousin to 'Mittens' itself as it chronicles the same relationship at a much earlier point in time. It's nostalgic, honest, and has moments of real romance. The same can't quite be said of 'Mittens' itself, where the full band treatment drowns the bittersweet tendency of the lyrics out. The single mix presented on this EP is definitely an improvement from the version found on the album as the call and response backing vocals that dominated the latter part of the song are way down in the mix here. It still packs a sonic punch, which I don't entirely understand because the point of the song seems to be a post-mortem of a relationship rather than being a defiant anthem.
Turner does put his skill at writing a rousing crowd-pleaser to good use here though, 'Least Of All Young Caroline' is a beautiful slice of kitchen sink drama, with a positive and re-assuring message that stays with you, no matter how bad it gets, it will get better. Turner's lyrics are made all the more moving as they're aimed at an adolescent, coupled with a Punk-Rock chorus, it sits alongside the best of Turner's work.
The EP is rounded off with 'Cleopatra In Brooklyn', which Turner wrote the music for when he was 13. It's now been polished up with lyrics written for a friend and would sit happily in the middle of any setlist. Finally there's also the surprisingly faithful acoustic Flanders & Swann cover 'The Armadillo'. It's a sly nod to Turner's childhood haunts as it references Salisbury Plain, but also reminds you that Turner is sometimes at his strongest when he's not surrounded by a band. While it's a slightly forgettable cover version, it's nice to see that Turner has reigned in his tendency to fill his more recent EP's with other people's songs, he's certainly found the right balance here.
For a man that's been so passionate about supporting physical formats like vinyl, I do find it odd that Mittens is a digital only release for Turner, especially when at least three of the songs here deserve to be sat on your shelf. The EP goes some way to improving the title track, but really it's the other material here that's the selling point. It's a release for his fans more than a mainstream audience, but it's on par with his recent album, which says a lot about Turner's consistency as a songwriter.
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