Sam Fender is a natural storyteller. It’s as simple as that. He uses his observational lyrics to tell the stories in his songs. Fender has had a meteoric rise to success, from beating Lewis Capaldi and Mahalia to win this year’s Critics’ Choice at the BRIT Awards to supporting his hero Bob Dylan in London’s Hyde Park.
It seems fitting that his debut album ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ was written, recorded and produced at his own self-built warehouse studio in North Shields. It was recorded alongside long time friend and producer, Bramwell Bronte.
The title track is an unexpected love song and Fender is strikingly honest as ever (“The tensions of the world are rising higher/We're probably due another war with all this ire”). He also goes on to say, “I'm not smart enough to change a thing/I've no answers, only questions” to express his frustration. It’s a subject matter few would dare to approach, much like the later song ’Dead Boys’.
The flourishes of saxophone on the ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ don’t go unnoticed. They add a nostalgic 80’s feel, whilst remaining fresh and are most definitely a Bruce Springsteen influence. Only Fender could pen a song called ‘White Privilege’ (“Don’t wanna hear about Brexit”), although it is a shame that other gutsy tracks from previous EPs like ‘Poundshop Kardashians’ didn’t make it onto the album.
The Bruce Springsteen influence is further evidenced in current single ‘The Borders’ which is more upbeat. There are lyrics which you wouldn’t usually hear in a song (“[you] pinned me to the ground/eight years old with a replica gun pushing in my skull saying you’re going to kill me if I tell/Never did and I never will/that house was living hell”). Fender pulls no punches in how he is feeling. Surrounding these gritty lyrics is direct and anthemic music. However, the arena-sized sounds are just as impressive when listened to from the comfort of your living room.
‘Dead Boys’ was a significant track for Fender. It is a haunting account of the male suicide epidemic affecting young men. In this track, he addresses mental health and “toxic masculinity” head on. His powerful voice is more subdued in ‘Dead Boys’ but the message still hits home. ‘Play God’ and ‘That Sound’ are excellent tracks.
‘Saturday’ is highly relatable (“If Saturday don’t come soon, I’m gonna lose my mind”), whilst recent single ‘Will We Talk?’ tells the story of a one night stand. It is euphoric and again has an anthemic feel. ‘Call Me Lover’ is a slower, hypnotic song and subjugates the listener. It’s also one of the best tracks off the album, which is saying something as there is such stiff competition. ‘Use (Live From London)’ is a simple and stripped back song which continues to showcase Fender’s show-stopping, fiery vocals.
‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is packed with high octane hits, all of which translate into an impeccable record. Sam Fender’s debut is brave, confident and evocative.
Words: Narzra Ahmed
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