Sam Fender ‘Hypersonic Missiles’- Review

26 Sep

Sam fender is a young, socially conscious writer with talent and tenacity. He also has genuine charisma, a jawline carved out of rock and piercing blue eyes (these things surely matter when you’re being anointed the heir to Springsteen’s crown?). His debut, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is a ragtag collection of well meaning, emotive rock music that finds the middle ground between The War On Dugs and Lewis Capaldi.

It begins with the most unapologetic homages to The Boss you’re likely to hear this side of The Gaslight Anthem – ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ and ‘The Borders’ – and these are also the record’s most successful moments, marrying underdog ambition with borrowed bombast. The sax solo that appears towards the end of the former feels earned and necessary to release all the built up tension. 

But too many songs sink in to a predictable spiral. If you had a pound for every sax solo that emerges through the feedback then you would have enough change to buy another copy of the album. What is invigorating and rewarding on the opening track is diminished by overuse. The record’s second half in particular is weighed down by a formulaic repetitiveness that undoes so many of the early gains. But the songs are catchy. Early singles ‘Dead Boys’ ‘ Will We Talk’ and ‘That Sound’ are all anthemic and punchy, even if it’s hard to differentiate much between them. There is a little more sonic variety in the second half, where Fender experiments with soulful balladry and introspective yearning, never really in a convincing way.

Fender has an observational lyrical style that pitches him somewhere between Alex Turner and his idol, Bruce Springsteen. Frustratingly, if somewhat endearingly, Fender has none of their clarity of thought. He frequently lets his more impulsive ideas carry him away (‘I eat myself to death, feed the corporate machine, I watch the movies, recite every scene, God Bless America and all its allies…’). On worst offender, ‘White Privillage’, he shifts narrative perspectives without care and fluctuates between sincerity and irony so haphazardly that it becomes impossible to sieve between the two. ‘The Borders’ with its depictions of bullying, domestic violence, and brotherly binds sends a similarly confusing message. Hopefully he will learn to tone it down and rein it in because there are moments of real thoughtfulness that flower from the compost.

‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is a confident debut that continually implores the listener to question our assumptions and pre-made characterisations about ‘the big issues’ – masculinity, respect, sovereignty, friendship. Fender approaches these topics from a position of empathy and – I mean this in the best possible way – ignorance. He never sound pretentious or preachy, which is easier said than done when you’re discussing loaded topic such as white privilege. It’s an uneven and sketchy album at points (as debuts are want to be) but there is enough promise here to suggest a bright future for Sam Fender.

6/10

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