ALBUM REVIEW: Frank Turner & Jon Snodgrass – Buddies II: Still Buddies (Xtra Mile Recordings)
Recorded in just one day, “with a head full of whisky”, it was a lovely, warm album which showed real symbiosis between the pair of friends.
Ten years on, they have made a follow-up, though the lockdown brought about by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic meant they had to do it over the internet, rather than in a room together.
Like the original, it was written in just one day, and this time they recruit other buddies including Todd Beene (Lucero, Chuck Ragan, Glossary) on pedal steel and Stephen Egerton (Descendents/ALL) on drums.
It’s like listening in on a conversation between two old friends who are trading stories and bouncing off each other, and a lot of it genuinely feels off the cuff.
Opening track Still Buddies namechecks a whole host of mutual friends, like Tim Barry and Chuck Ragan, and details what’s happened in their lives since Buddies, from moving home and having children to getting a dog or dying their moustache.
It introduces a pleasing familiarity from the off, and it’s followed by Retractions, where the pair hold a post-mortem on their first collaboration: “We tried to write a record in less than a day, with a headful of whisky and made some mistakes.”
They remininisce about a favourite Santa Barbara restaurant in S-Bar, and introduce one of their guests on Stephen Plays the Drums, a full-on rock number.
Bad Times Good Vibes, the lead single from the album, highlights their different approaches, starting off as a full-on, fast-paced punk belter in Turner’s hands, before abruptly morphing into a country-tinged slowey in Snodgrass’s, and then back again.
Given the circumstances in which the album was recorded, a song about Covid-19 was inevitable. It comes in reflective acoustic number The Fleas, where they sing “Here we are, finally on our knees, waiting for the world to shake us off, like a bad case of the fleas.”
Hold Me Homie is another rousing number, about missing simple human interaction like a hug, and it can be added to the (very short) playlist of punk songs featuring a kazoo and bongos.
When the pair trade lines their voices complement each other perfectly, with Snodgrass’s velvety croon a wonderful contrast to Turner’s more aggressive growl.
A minor quibble; a couple of tunes, The Age Of A Dog and the closing The Earth is Flat, are little more than a minute long, so sound like half-finished ideas. It would have been good to hear them fleshed out into ‘proper’ songs, to improve the album’s slightly meagre run-time of 26 minutes.
On the whole, however, Still Buddies is a triumph; an album which will make you sing along, tap your feet and smile at banter between friends. At a time when we’re all missing people we care about, it’s a wonderful panacea.
The good news is they have already agreed to do Buddies III, on a boat. We’ll only have to wait another 10 years. 8/10.