Sam Fender explores how his background and circumstances have shaped him in latest albumTWITTER/ OFFICIALCHARTS

Sam Fender’s rise to British indie success is nothing short of miraculous. After stumbling into manager Owain Davies whilst performing in the pub he worked at, Fender was taken on as a client. From a small pub in South Shields, his climb to success remained fraught, with health issues, financial insecurity and a music scene dominated by posh boys and nepotism. Yet in 2017, with his release of EP Play God, and a tour alongside his childhood friends turned bandmates, Fender’s luck had begun to change.

With the release of his first studio album Hypersonic Missiles, Fender’s lyricism and melodies quickly gained comparisons to the blue-collar stories of Springsteen, the kitchen sink realism of Oasis, and parallels to the music of Joni Mitchell and The War on Drugs. Entangled in stories of nights out in “Saturday” and childhood tiffs in “The Borders”, Fender had created a trojan horse; wrapped in upbeat tempos and iconic saxophone riffs, lay bleak stories of the realities of inequality in modern Britain.

“The Tyneside singer’s new album is a more sophisticated examination of his formative years, and his current role in the spotlight”

Sam Fender’s sophomore release continues this tradition. But with Seventeen Going Under, Fender looks further inwards, The Tyneside singer’s new album is a more sophisticated examination of his formative years, and his current role in the spotlight. Whilst it is only his B-side track “Howdon Aldi Death Queue” that confronts the pandemic, the intimate stories of his adolescence, and his future in light of the grip of his experiences ring true for many. In the silence and stagnation of lockdown, the generation Fender has emerged from remained too trapped in their hometowns, albeit now for a different reason.

The music video for "Spit Of You" features actor Stephen Graham and explores Sam Fender's relationship with his DadYOUTUBE/ SAMFENDER

His new album develops similar themes to his previous. “Aye” overspills with political apathy, as Fender declares his distrust in party politics (“I’m not a fucking anything or anyone!”), as well as the empty talk and culture debates of left-wing movements that push away working classes (“And the woke kids are just dickheads.”) Fender has also been overt in his discussions of male mental health. In this album, he explores his stoic relationship with his father in “Spit Of You”, a dynamic that is both one of admiration and unease. In “Get You Down”, Fender’s struggles with mental health are transparent (“I catch myself in the mirror, see a pathetic little boy”), fitting into a larger picture of the mental health crisis amongst working-class men in areas like his Newcastle home.


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Title track “Seventeen Going Under″ begins with stories of beach trips with his mates, typical teenagers getting into trouble (“The bizzies round us up, do it all again next week”), but by the end of the track, Fender’s portrait of a teenage him is one burdened with mental health issues, family struggles, with debt, and his mother’s ongoing chronic illness (“I see my mother, the DWP see a number”). Fender does not buckle beneath the pressure to produce music that is light, romanticised and unrealistic. Instead, his portrayal of youth in deindustrial Newcastle, financial insecurity, and political apathy is all too real, reflecting decades of neglect to the North, and much of the austerity policy of the past 15 years.

“His portrayal of youth in deindustrial Newcastle... [reflects] decades of neglect to the North”

Fender’s second album speaks truth to a generation of working-class youths whose adolescence suffered from such cuts. Sam Fender has cemented himself as a rare voice amongst an often middle class and wealthy British music scene. Whilst in track “Mantra”, he details feeling imposter syndrome in those circles, Fender is not an outsider, but speaks for a whole generation. With this release, he is a canary in the coal mine, warning us all of the realities of modern Britain.