Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass; Still Buddies

Ten years ago, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass recorded an album that became a cult favourite among fans: ‘Buddies’. Here comes the long awaited follow up…

Right, I’m gonna try. Without Google, it goes: Hartnell, the guy with the black combover, Pertwee, Baker, Davidson, Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean…I think, Bernie Ecclestone, wee David Tennant, Matt Smith and erm, Forrest Whitaker.

Somewhere near close, I reckon. But when Davros, least the guy who played him, leaned over a table at a comic con and asked me what my favourite Dr Who episode was, I’m like, wha? I dunno, pal, you want me, what, to roll off an exact series and episode number like an overweight geek in a Buffy tee? I can barely recall all the actors, or what I just ate.

Similar to another occasion when a fanboy’s jaw hit the deck at a comic con upon my confession, I hadn’t read Maus. I have now, for the record, thinking my life might depend on it, but at the time, no, I hadn’t. I’m not Denis Gifford for crying out loud into a Millennium Falcon, I’m not intending to draft a history of comics. I was only there to punt my stoner comic, for want of a next meal. Still, I get narked by the expectance I’m supposed to know everything about everything, to have read every piece of literature in the developed world, to have listened to every album, and seen every film, because I write reviews. Especially being I’m partial to occupying a hefty percentage of my time daydreaming through a closed window.

Still I worry Sheer Music’s Kieran will kill me, or least tell big Mikey Barham, who’ll hunt me down, if I say I’ve a Frank Turner album to review, and this is the first time I have listened to him. It’s nothing personal, Frank, just an oversight on my part, I could apologise, but Davros takes priority.  Fact is prog-rock is not my bag, I slipped headphones on with only minimal caution, being Mr Moore hasn’t failed me yet. Prolific Hampshire punk and folk singer, Frank Turner begun as vocalist for post-hardcore band Million Dead, and pursued an acoustic solo career in 2005, after the band’s breakup, accompanied by The Sleeping Souls, his backing band.

Apparently, a decade past saw Frank team up with Missouri-born alternative-country musician, Jon Snodgrass of the Armchair Martian, Scorpios, and Drag the River bands to drink whisky and record Buddies, a 10” split album that became a cult favourite among fans. Written in four hours, recorded the following day, it’s an experimental project proved popular and now followed up with “Buddies II: Still Buddies,” out this Friday 13th November.

Under similar premise as the original, the sequel was written in just one day, albeit via the internet due to lockdown. I’m going in blind, but informed they were able to flesh out the album with more time on their hands, and recruited the aid of Descendents/ALL drummer Stephen Egerton and Todd Beene of Lucero, Chuck Ragan and Glossary, on pedal steel. Blind is good though, as I was pleasantly surprised, completely unexpectedly entertained. For it’s more podcast than album, they chat like a comical zoom meeting and bounce off each other while adlibbing their next song.

A musical Whose Line is it Anyway, where straight-man Frank, akin to Ernie Wise replaces Eric for Cheech or Chong, Jon sounding like the Californian beatnik, the guys amusingly chinwag on all manner of random subjects: having children, their travels across the States, and name-checking other songwriter “buddies” like they did on the original, but with lockdown prose. Musically it contrasts they desired genres, getting heavy and thrash at times via Frank’s ideas, or country with Jon’s, who often attempts to slip in a kazoo! Yet the opening tune, a parody theme tune sounding uncannily like Randy Newman’s Toy Story “You’ve got a Friend in Me,” is decidedly novelty ska-punk, and there’s a promise of a third Buddies album with the prospectus of an even funnier marine theme.

Frank explains, “lockdown has been such a blow to the music industry, and such a drag that we were all looking for things to do. Jon and I have been buddies a long time, and I noticed the 10-year anniversary of our collaborative album was coming up. Technology is such that we were able to reprise the writing method remotely, and indeed it turns out we’ve got a lot better at it in the intervening decade. I’m really, really proud of the record.”

And Snodgrass adds, “BUDDIES II was somehow even more fun to make. It even sounds better too! Frank mixed it & we enlisted Todd Beene & Stephen Egerton. So yeah, 2 more buddies. It’s twice as good, imo. I can’t wait until 2030! It’s gonna be three times better & we’re gonna do it at sea!!”

If improv Facebook feeds from novice jokers are becoming tiresome in these times, I believe many of the more memorable will become a testament to era, and Buddies is perhaps the best I’ve heard, but as an album it’s not what Turner fans might expect, but will be delighted by the variance. It entertained me, that is, I’m not about to be die-hard fandom, but it placed both Frank and Jon on ones not to be missed out again.

Out on Xtra Mile Recordings this cheerful reflection is out on Friday 13th  November. If unlucky for some, it’s certainly not for Frank Turner fans. Oh, and Patrick Trouton was Doctor with the black hair, and I can’t imagine how I ever forgot about Peter Capaldi.

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