Sam Fender Impresses with the Punchy and Political Seventeen Going Under



Recommended Tracks: “Spit Of You”, “Last To Make It Home”, “Aye”

Artists You May Like: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Inhaler, The Courteeners

The North Shields indie-rock marvel has impressed once again! Sam Fender has brought us a punchy and emotive album in Seventeen Going Under, exploring the relationship he has with himself, his father, and the world. Not forgetting the political criticism which underlies most of his discography, the fantastic album carries clear influences from Springsteen and The Killers throughout.

The title track, “Seventeen Going Under” is one of the best title tracks I’ve heard this year — with defined lyricism, it’s a clear headbanger of a track that’s designed towards festival audiences with anthemic choruses throughout. Assembled with clear harkenings of previous works, “Dead Boys” and “Poundshop Kardashians” has a very raw meaning behind their upbeat tempo. Those two songs in particular are a narration of his life at 17, when Fender was looking after his mother who was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and forced out of work. Speaking with the BBC about this time in his life, Fender says, “I’d come home and she’d be in a right mess; upset, on the stairs, with letters from the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] and court summons and having to go to tribunals.” He continued, “This is a woman who’d worked for 40 years as a nurse in the NHS, and the one time she gets ill, they hounded [her]. They don’t go after the people with hedge funds in the Cayman Islands, they go after people like my mam. They go after the disabled. I was old enough to understand what was going on, but I wasn’t old enough to be able to help her with the rent, or even to have an idea of what to do.” This heaviness is generally reflected throughout the album, but when Fender really dives into his personal narrative, it displays a bravery unmatched by other songwriters willing to put it all on the line.

After writing many tracks, in 2021, which explored the poetry and drama of his hometown plus the clear yearning to leave and explore, Fender spoke of the album that I find it easier to write about other people because I can be completely honest about them,” he pondered. “I cant be completely honest about myself because everyone would think I was a miserable c**t.”

Despite being very introspective, and self-critical – with the gaze very much turned on himself: Seventeen Going Under is leagues better than his previous album Hypersonic Missiles. At first, “I didn’t have anyone to write about. I’ve always relied on that stuff. On hearsay, rumors, stories, gossip… gossip made mankind,” recalls Fender. “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.”

Fender has managed to create the perfect middle-ground between Elton John-esque upbeatness, and crystal-clear critique of living life. Be that politically or personally. A song that perfectly exhibits his trademarked political commentary is “Aye”. which seems to be a progression of “White Privilege” that plays with a more nuanced sophistication. Instead of being explicit, he writes about the grey areas and ambiguities, which breathes life into a song that describes what it’s like to live as a human in these divided and troubling times.

Delving into the feeling many Millenials have — a sense of having a confused identity in a time of sheer polarisation which has led to political disenfranchisement and apathy — these themes are continually echoed in “Get You Down” and “Long Way Off”. With clear Springsteen influences, having an epic trumpet and saxaphone blasts alongside the violins – to give this album a nicely presented cherry on top. Plus elements of influence from all elements of music history, with hints of OK GO and Trombone Shorty scattered amongst it all.

“Spit Of You”, by far the most emotional track on the album, is easily the showstopper of this collection of songs. Honing in on the relationship Fender has with his father, the song was written when his grandmother died, and details his experiences of watching his father become the son for the first time. “I can talk to anyone / I can’t talk to you” — this phrase which many can identify with brings home the struggles of toxic masculinity and the strange ways we show love within the father-son dynamic.

Throughout Seventeen Going Under, it’s clear that there is a clear attention-to-detail across the board. From Fender’s lyricism and inclusion of more complex musical composure, to the albums’ marketing campaign, it’s not hard to guess that, because of this album, his tour will only bring more fans into the fold. I don’t know what Sam Fender is planning on doing next, but Seventeen Going Under has primed his audience to be ready for anything.

In three words, I would describe this album as: punchy, political, and personal.

Keep up with Sam Fender: Website // Instagram // Twitter // Facebook // TikTok

Nicholas J. Barlow
Nicholas J. Barlow
Poet, Podcaster, and Entertainer. Contributor for Melodic Mag.

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