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A bit of magical Turner back-catalogue...
on 18 January 2009
The First Three Years contains a variety of things that will mean different things to you depending on how much you know about Frank: all the tracks from the two early EPs, Campfire Punkrock and The Real Damage; songs from a split Frank did with Jonah Matranga, and a collection of demos, alternative versions and covers. Depending on where you're coming from for this CD, you'll want to hear different things.
If you've never heard of Frank before, then this is a great place to start. On The First Three Years are plenty of songs to set the scene of Frank - particularly the statement of intent that is Nashville Tennessee, and This Town Ain't Big Enough for the One of Me - a hilarious and frightfully accurate account of growing up in a small town. But then that is the joy of Frank - the ability to say things that at once seem utterly honest and unique to him, and yet at the same time which sum up all the things you've felt in a way far more articulate and poetic than you will ever manage. (Or at least that's what the joy of Frank is for me.)
If you've got Frank's solo albums, but only come to it recently, then you may not have had a chance to get the two EPs, and the songs from them are worth buying this for alone. The songs from them are of as high a quality as those on the albums, and the EPs don't seem to be available on CD any more.
As someone who quickly gobbles up everything that comes from Turner, I had most of these songs already from one location or another, but The First Three Years was still worth getting. Of the non EP songs, the Truck Session version of Imperfect Tense (available from Frank's web site if you bought Long Live The Queen) is probably my favourite: the rocky album track recast here heart-rending here. Other than that, and the rock version of Jet Lag - which works really well too - the covers (including The Postal Service and Black Flag) are all interesting and the beauty of them is that Frank means them. And that includes the closer, Dancing Queen, which is awesome. The demos are interesting for Frank aficionados, and if you haven't got Sleep Is for the Week, then you also get versions of two of its best tracks - The Real Damage and Worse Things Happen At Sea.
The First Three years may be a little bit of a stop-gap with everyone waiting for the next album, but there is some good stuff on here, and it's not just a collection of rarities. As an album it works well, and will stay in your stereo...