Sam Fender has released his second record Seventeen Going Under.
Fender is arguably one of the most honest songwriters on the scene right now with his tracks that cover everything from male suicide to politicians and the billionaires in society that abuse their power.
The lead single and opening title track ‘Seventeen Going Under’ is ‘The Border’s’ sibling (hit track from his debut album Hypersonic Missiles).
Before releasing this track, he changed his socials to what they looked like when he was 17. This track and the rest of the album reference the struggles he had as a teenager.
Fender talks of how he would not hesitate now about hitting: “the boy who kicked Tom’s head in” and as the guitar rhythm picks up, so does the anger in his voice.
Verse three is when he opens up more by declaring that his coping mechanism was being the “joker” of the group, therefore, he suffered from poor mental health in silence.
The bridge in this track is the most effective. Here he talks of his mother’s financial problems when he was growing up which nearly led him to dealing drugs just to help her get by.
“I see my mother, the DWP see a number”.
This lyric is one of Fender’s many call-outs to the Tory Government.
The second track ‘Getting Started’ is a song that reminds one to keep on going. Although the vocals are soft which can make it seem like a sad track with the slow drums and guitar rhythm, the chorus is a reminder that it is actually positive.
‘Aye’ was the second single released and is essentially an ‘eat the rich’ punk rock song. It works.
The track refers to many events that politicians and billionaires either caused or helped to cover up.
There is no meet in the middle for the right and left-wing (“Poor, hate the poor / Hate the poor”) refers to this and working-class people who vote Tory or other far-right parties who actually do not benefit them at all.
A class divide then occurs as those working-class people that vote Labour etc fail to see where the other side is coming from.
‘Get You Down’ was the third single and is Fender’s second feature on EA Sports game Fifa 22. He told fans that this is one of the more personal tracks of this record.
It focuses on how his insecurities ruined his relationships, particularly his last one. He could not deal with negative feelings he had about himself and therefore projected them onto his partner. Johnny Davis on the saxophone is unreal in this track.
‘Long Way Off’ has a crashing drum that maintains throughout with light piano. This has another reference to how the government treat the poor and that divide in ‘Aye’ and how we are a “long way off” from being united.
There are quiet but noticeable female vocals in the chorus that match up with Fender’s really nicely.
The final single upon this record release was ‘Spit Of You’, “a song about boys and their dads”. Whilst it is a declaration of love, it is also about toxic masculinity and how they struggle to communicate.
As Fender gets older, he sees so much of his father in him. The music video shows how fathers and sons are usually brought together by pints, pubs and the outdoors.
In the video, it gets heated as Fender is shouting at his father (Stephen Graham). Graham just looks at him blankly as if he can see himself in Fender which was really impactful. They both end up shouting which almost demonstrated a reflection, if this is the case then it was excellent.
Their acting is remarkable as Graham’s always is but it was especially credit to Fender’s, as that side to him is not always shown.
Next is ‘Last To Make It Home’. This has a slow tempo, Fender’s vocals and a piano really do go so well.
‘The Leveller’ is about lockdown and the effect it had. Whilst it is upbeat and straight to the point, it shows the undertones of the pandemic and the struggles it caused. Fender sings with a higher pitch which compliments the fast drumming well.
‘Mantra’ is another slow track. It is about trying not to seek validation from individuals who do not actually care about you. That is simply Fender’s “mantra” in this verse-only structure.
The tenth track is ‘Paradigms’. This is a rock song and a good one at that. Fender got a choir of his friends to sing the bridge which is so powerful and touching. They did this to tribute his friend who he lost to suicide last year.
‘The Dying Light’ is a beautiful track. Fender described it as a sequel to ‘Dead Boys’ (from album one). It is a ballad with its rich piano throughout. This song is in the perspective of someone considering suicide and stands to give them hope.
‘Better Of Me’ is about someone you believed you were over coming back into your life. Someone came back into Fender’s and he realised he was in fact not over them at all.
This has a sci-fi effect to it with a choir sounding chorus. The female vocals and Fender’s go so nicely during the second verse. It is quite a sad song as he reflects on the hurt this person caused him.
Next is ‘Pretending That You’re Dead’. This is about going through a breakup having being cheated on which happened to Fender when he was 16. The way to get through it is in the track name.
This is another upbeat track that is very well put.
Fender revisits his childhood in Scotland with his mother in ‘Angel in Lothian’. A nostalgic track always helps to connect to the artist more.
The harmonica used is a great touch as it is different for Fender.
The second-last track, ‘Good Company’, is a live one and was one take. Debuted in Hamburg in 2020, he had only written it the night before and had to read some lyrics off his phone.
It being live makes it more real, especially with the lyrics as they are on the down side but written beautifully. Fender shows his vulnerability in a mixture of who he thinks he is.
Closing track ‘Poltergeists’ is another power ballad with a soft piano that ends it just right. It is a chilling track as it is another side Fender does not tend to show.
It is more than clear how much Fender has grown as an artist since Hypersonic Missiles. His songwriting has always been on form but it really shows in this record.
He is one of the few current artists that call out who needs calling out and gives a voice to the working class. He has helped break down stereotypes towards lower classes already and he is only getting started.
Fender has always been vocal about his main music influence being Bruce Springsteen but this heavily showed in this record especially with Davis’ saxophone featuring a lot.
‘The Dying Light’ also had Springsteen undertones.
Fender performs sold out rescheduled dates from his postponed tour at The Barrowlands in Glasgow at the end of the month.
He has also just announced an arena tour across the UK and Ireland. He performs at the SSE Hydro next March with tickets on sale next Friday.
Seventeen Going Under is available on all music-streaming devices.
Featured image credit: Broken 8 Records