Released: 8th October 2021
Following the runaway success of ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, it would have been dead easy for Sam Fender to double down on those stories built on the shoulders of the characters of his beloved North Shields. But, as a pandemic hit, and an enforced and extended isolation quickly followed for him, his songwriting instead took a turn inwards. The main character in ‘Seventeen Going Under’ is, instead, Sam himself. Bravely putting his own life under that same microscopic attention to detail that coloured so much of his debut, it is a bold leap forward in all the ways that matter.
“I’m only getting started, don’t need to feel disheartened,” he sings on ‘Getting Started’, and ain’t that the truth. If ‘The Borders’ opened the door to where he wanted to go next with his song-writing, this follow-up smashes them off their hinges. There’s a breathless start to the record, ‘Aye’ with its withering assault on the divisions being forced on the world by the 1%, savage and bristling with confidence. Likewise with ‘Long Way Off’, another track that shows he’s lost none of his fire or ability to cut straight through to the core of the current political shitshow on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘Seventeen Going Under’ is at is best when he turns to face himself however. Relationships with both parents are explored, and the fallout of his childhood insecurities through adulthood runs through much here. Perfectly picking a path through when to be a motormouth, and when to let the music speak for itself, tracks like ‘Mantras’ for instance threading loosely around a The War On Drugs vibe in a way that’s going to explode live. ‘The Leveller’ feels like the guitar-shredding teenager in all of us let loose. Best of all, the tearjerking finale ‘Dying Light’ which yes, sounds like something Springsteen would have done in his prime, and no that isn’t a bad thing when it’s executed with this much precision, heartache and sheer quality. This is very special indeed.