I’m a bit of a hardcore Frank Turner fan. I’ve listened to his last few albums a ridiculous amount. He’s not the coolest rock star in the eyes of many. But stone me if he hasn’t got ‘relatable’ down pat in his lyrics. I don’t mind admitting there are Frank Turner songs that can get me dewey eyed and lumpy of throat because he goes around hitting the nail on the head when it comes to ‘The Feels’.
Silent Key is getting singled out for that reason here and for a little more. See usually Frank can hit me where it hurts by singing about regret, or love, or break ups, or just loving rock and roll. This one is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, even though as far as I can tell, it’s an imagined account of a female astronaut making a final mayday call and only getting through to a schoolboy ham radio operator. So y’know not exactly a familiar scenario for most.
He’s not pulling punches on the opening power chords and it booms into life. Now I know who Christa McAullife is because I was a space nerd as a kid (still am really) and I remember watching Challenger going down live on TV at 11 years old. So the fact she’s the subject of the song and killed in the first two lines is a lot to take in.
The rest of the lyrical narrative is her train of thought and her broadcast out of the shuttle as it burns up and falls back to the Earth.
Halfway through the song it becomes a duet. Esme Patterson plays the role of Christa directly and sings the beautiful and positive refrain about ‘The darkness up above’ while Frank keeps returning to the fact that for 2 minutes 45 second Christa is ‘Still Alive’ despite knowing she’s going up in flames.
If you’re prone to those sort of things it’s ‘hairs on the back of your arms standing up’ type affecting. An emotionally manipulative song that preaches contentment in the face of adversity.
So a song about a real life disaster, turned into an inspirational and uplifting ballad about achievement and reflection. Not exactly a ballad, but still capable of getting to the listener like the most mournful country love song.