Sam Fender Comes of Age on the Brilliant 'Seventeen Going Under'
Photo: Charlotte Patmore
Sam Fender is a songwriter in the truest sense. The 25-year-old UK artist tackles the macabre yet beautiful world we've created with a self-aware acuity, holding up a magnifying glass to both the unassuming passerby and our sprawling systems of oppression and devastation. It's an approach that defined much of his critically-acclaimed debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, as a stirring political message of the times.
And in his highly-anticipated sophomore effort, Fender forgoes his observations on mutually assured destruction and political corruption to turn his meticulously-trained songwriting wit inwards. The result is Seventeen Going Under, a deeply personal album that serves as equal parts self-examination and study of the human condition. "Some of the stories are autobiographical so they write themselves," Fender confesses. "In a sense though, you're writing about the human experience, but you do feel exposed."
The change in perspective was largely inspired by the last odd two years, which saw, and sees, the world battling a global pandemic and increased isolation. "I didn't have anyone to write about. I've always relied on that stuff. On hearsay, rumours, stories, gossip... gossip made mankind," recounts Fender from his studio in North Shields. "I didn't want to write about COVID because fucking no one is ever going to want to hear about that ever again, so this time I went inwards."
There's a newfound softness to be found in Fender's sonic confessionals. Intricate guitar lines and simplified yet exquisite instrumentation allow for the UK artist's lyrical growth to take center stage. Yet for fans of the driving brit-pop and indie rock that scored much of Hypersonic Missiles, they will find comfort in tracks like "The Leveller" and "Aye" - the latter of which is a thrilling call to arms against the 1%, with Fender expounding, "The only thing I care about is people. I think we’ve got to fight the injustices in the world and one of them is the fact that we’re being hoodwinked by the 1% permanently and we're sat down here shouting at each other about some stuff on the news. It’s a fucking cesspit. Everyone’s fired up and pissed off before they’ve even begun the conversation."
Culminating in the heart-rending "Poltergeists," Fender revisits the ghosts of the dead boys that haunted his hometown and debut EP. It makes Seventeen Going Under feel like a full-circle moment for the enviable songwriting talent. One that sees him grow up and looking forward, carrying the torch and burden for those who couldn't. "This album is a coming of age story. It's about growing up. It's a celebration of life after hardship, it's a celebration of surviving."
Listen to Seventeen Going Under below: