We review the new Sam Fender Album – Seventeen Going Under
Many will already be familiar with ambitious UK singer, songwriter and musician Sam Fender who has, with admirable speed, built himself a dedicated fan base across the whole of Britain with his bold politically relevant lyricism and anthemic rock ballads tackling themes of deprivation and poverty, particularly in the North East.
With his second release, “Seventeen Going Under” Fender skilfully manages to maintain both the boundless energy of his voice and instrumentation scattered with politically charged lyrics whilst this time seamlessly blending it with moments of mature vulnerability creating an album that is raw, honest and hard-hitting.
In the opening track and title track “Seventeen Going Under” Fender provides a beginning taste that encapsulates perfectly to the listener the energy of the entire album.
Kicking off with youthful sounding guitar riffs which Fenders strong vocals soar over telling a story of his experience growing up as a young working class boy and referencing the anger and loneliness he battled through.
Allusions to toxic masculinity culture in lyrics such as “I spent my teens in rage/Spiralling in silence” showing that Fender is as politically aware as ever as well as unafraid of tackling topics that other men in the music industry are less willing to confront.
As well as setting Fender apart from other men in the indie rock scene this open sensitivity shows maturity and growth from Fender’s debut “Hypersonic Missiles” confirming that Fender has not got stuck in a rut and is able to reflect his growth as a person as well as an artist in his music.
In the title track, Fender quickly cements this whilst contrasting his sensitive lyrical content with upbeat sax riffs and passionate vocals setting the tone for the rest of the songs to follow.
One trait of Fender’s music that fortunately has not been lost is his brutal and blunt honesty which comes through in his lyricism stronger than ever on “Seventeen Going Under”. In songs such as “Spit of You”, a beautifully melodic track with almost Fleetwood Mac inspired acoustic guitar, Fender’s lyrics explore the complex relationship between him and his father and the emotional disconnect and communication barriers he feels between them despite their similarities.
Never one to sugar coat things, Fender plainly states what he feels in the lyrics “I can talk to anyone/I can’t talk to you” which are repeated in the song hammering the point home for the listener in a way which is refreshingly clear about a scenario many can relate to. In more politically charged tracks such as “Long Way Off” once again direct lyrics such as “heard a hundred million voices sound the same both left and right” voice the political concerns of many ordinary people.
This is a huge part of the appeal of Fender’s music which he further emphasises on “Seventeen Going Under”, the struggles and feelings people face in their daily lives which Fender sings about in a candid way gifting him the art of putting into words feelings listeners may not be openly discussing themselves.
Although Fender’s “Seventeen Going Under” is packed with moments of sensitivity there are still bursts of energy and positivity scattered strategically around the track list adding diversity of emotion to the album. In songs such as “The Leveller” which is placed after the more sombre piano ballad “Last to Make It Home”, rapid, pacing drum beats accompanied by aggressive sounding lyrics such as “we are the scum that overstayed their welcome” give tracks like these a revolutionary quality and motivational kick for the listener.
Other fast paced tracks such as “Getting Started” have a heroic coming – of – age movie feel about them adding moments of intoxicating inspiration to the album amongst the darker topics which are covered. Even the closing track “The Dying Light” a song which lyrically addresses the tragedy of high male suicide rates in the North East of England where Fender was born and raised which begins with slow, haunting piano chords is then punctured with a sudden explosion of upbeat instrumental fusion.
This, in classic Fender style, brings light to the end of the dark tunnel ending the album with hope for the future.
Overall, “Seventeen Going Under” is a both electrifying and emotive album showcasing Fender’s growth as an artist and a man. By incorporating new instruments into his work such as the saxophone to emphasise the riveting quality of his music, Fender proves that as an artist he has not become stuck into one singular way of forming his sound. Hopefully, his next release shows his evolution does not end here.