Album of the Week
The BRITs Critics' Choice winner unleashes his highly-anticipated debut full-length.
Spend any time sifting through the many online search results for outspoken north-eastern raised singer-songwriter Sam Fender and you’ll be sure to stumble across countless comparisons to stateside guitar icon Bruce Springsteen; some justifiable and some arguably not so.
The two overlap in some senses, not least the sprawling Americana-inspired guitar work of Fender’s self-proclaimed album favourite The Borders or the transportive echoes of That Sound – a track which owes in equal parts to the British indie upstarts that have paved the way for Fender.
Yet where Fender and Springsteen come together most (other than the former’s occasional cover versions of the latter) is more thematic than musical. Fender’s style, itself an evolving entity across the record’s thirteen tracks, is unquestionably a product of his upbringing – treading the water between escapist road-trip fantasy and conversely vivid realism.
It’s a style he showcased early on. The sobering Dead Boys, one of a few moments on the record where Fender’s vocal register jumps up for a tenderness akin to Jeff Buckley, places poignant tales of male suicide under a particularly rousing melody. Fellow single and live highlight Will We Talk exemplifies the insecurity of loneliness, yet washes it with one a hook-filled melody that rivals some of the biggest indie anthems of recent decades.
What Sam Fender shares with his American contemporary (and we don’t use the term lightly) is honesty. Much of Hypersonic Missiles is dedicated to the frustrations of growing up in North Shields, not least in Two People – itself a critical take on the troubling cycle many find themselves trapped in in less wealthy communities.
The theme rears its head throughout the record. The tellingly titled Leave Fast opens with descriptive verses of a run-down town, before Fender implores to “leave fast or stay forever”. On White Privilege, Fender examines his own position within the community, and the good and bad that has led him to this point. It’s also one of few tracks in recent memory to incorporate a reference to Brexit.
Yet underneath it all, Fender instills an air of hope. In part due to the expert instrumentation – a welcome introduction of the saxophone raises hairs on the neck – and in part to Fender’s own personality, Hypersonic Missiles is as freeing as it is confined. Sam Fender has much to say. He largely steers clear of cliches and of love, instead focussing on the internal and external struggles that plague substantial communities and individuals across the United Kingdom. With it he offers support and joins a rising pack of artists – not least from the homegrown grim end hip-hop scenes – making a genuine impact.
Sam Fender tours across the UK in November and December 2019. For remaining tickets to select dates, head to Ticketmaster.co.uk.
1. Hypersonic Missiles
2. The Borders
3. White Privilege
4. Dead Boys
5. You?re Not The Only One
6. Play God
7. That Sound
9. Will We Talk?
10. Two People
11. Call Me Lover
12. Leave Fast
13. Use (live)