Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
Fascinating, confused and a little bit terrified, Sam Fender's debut album filters universal truths through a North East England lens
Much has been made of Sam Fender’s devotion to Bruce Springsteen, and although his stories of small-town tragedy and eyes-wide escapism may share a lane with the The Boss, Fender’s E Street has a firm NE29 postcode. Across Hypersonic Missiles, he treads deftly between universal and personal, everything filtered through the lens of North East England.
When he mentions Newcastle’s Grey’s Monument on Play God you can practically hear the Metro rumbling underneath. It’s an honest portrayal that could easily have been worked out of him by external influence, and it’s a relief to hear him remain both in thrall to his hometown and insubordinate to the government that neglects it. When he exclaims 'we ain’t got a penny between wuh' on album highlight The Borders, it’s difficult not to root for him.
Musically he’s yet to settle, and the record veers between the mature jangle-and-sax of The Borders and the title track to the formative outbursts of That Sound and Will We Talk? The first half emerges as the stronger side, and it’s no coincidence that this is the newer part of the record. From the self-laceration of White Privilege to the heart-on-sleeve bewilderment of Dead Boys, Fender demonstrates a welcome fearlessness throughout. These are not songs formed with commercial viability in mind, yet they’re delivered with such widescreen clarity that it seems impossible they’d be anything but.
If there’s fault to be found here, it’s that he can lean a little heavy on his influences (Springsteen, Jeff Buckley, The Strokes, The Psychedelic Furs) when his words and instincts are individual enough to see him through, as on the beautiful Leave Fast. Mostly, though, this is everything a debut should be: fascinating, confused and a little bit terrified.
Listen to: The Borders, Dead Boys, Leave Fast