By Edward Burnett
Dire Straits. The Animals. Sting. The north-east of England has turned out several class acts on the global music scene over the last half century. Yet now there is a new name to add to the list in Sam Fender. The twenty-five-year-old solo artist from North Shields released his debut album on Friday (13/09), ‘Hypersonic Missiles’. Following both his previously successful singles and winning the Critics’ Choice award at the 2019 Brits, the album has been highly anticipated and for good reason. The music served up in the thirteen-song strong collection has both a fresh yet familiar ring to it, making it a classic for the future. This review will go into how Fender is able to achieve this sound or ‘That Sound’ as he calls it (yes, the puns have made a reappearance).
Firstly, Fender’s lyrics are arguably what give his songs this apparent ‘freshness’. Unlike many artists of new and old, he largely strays away from the typical topics which plague the large majority of music. Instead of choosing the usual stories of love or other tales of make-believe happiness (albeit a few love ballads make an appearance on the album, yes), he rather chooses to cover themes relevant to society today. Themes such as the rising rate of male suicide, homelessness, depravity and war all appear on the album, which therefore not only acts to raise awareness for Fender’s talent but of all the issues facing the world currently. ‘Dead Boys’ especially consists of hard-hitting lyrics such as “The anniversaries are short lived, but they come back around at a breakneck speed’ and going on to sing “Nobody ever could explain all the dead boys in our hometown”. Such honest and direct lines help emulate the singer’s own personal experiences of dealing with his friends’ suicides and the undeniable importance that the matter carries.
Moreover, the title track, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, helps to bring up the subject of war and its many negative effects alongside the younger generation’s ignorance towards current affairs. This is documented in Fender’s second verse with him singing “I am so blissfully unaware of everything, kids in Gaza are bombed and I’m just out of it”. This serious subject matter that is mostly unique to his catalogue helps ground Fender’s work and sets him aside from the plethora of rising young talent today. It truly allows for his work to have a purpose beyond music or enjoyment and therefore adds another string to his bow (or in this case guitar, if we’re going to be both literal and pedantic).
Furthermore, the tunes which accompany said praised lyrics do not stand out of place beside them. No, the sound that Fender mainly uses is guitar (typical with a surname like that) and with this, he is free to create a clean and almost familiar noise. His riffs are very reminiscent in substance to those of his very own idol, Bruce Springsteen, with such catchy and upbeat interludes throughout many of his songs such as the title track. Yet, at the same time as coming across similar to Springsteen, he manages to also come across crisp in today’s music market as this style of echo and canny guitar sound is not used often these days. This is prominent in the main riff of ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, as mentioned, but also the slow and touching, ‘Leave Fast’.
All in all, this blend of serious topics coupled with jumpy tunes help to create a familiar yet fresh sound which is as much a joy to the ear as it is a ponder to the mind. Thanks to the music itself giving the purpose of enjoyment, the strong and forthright lyrics give another level to his songs: one of information, panic and awareness. This itself gives the album a sense of inevitable immortality amongst its contemporary counterparts, which renders it a classic for years to come. One thing is for sure, with song writing talent like this, Sam Fender won’t be ‘leaving fast’ anytime soon.
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