Album Review: Sam Fender - 'Seventeen Going Under'

Ever since he made his breakthrough with 'Dead Boys' in 2018, indie-rock singer Sam Fender has been on a rapid ascent to stardom. His 2019 debut album 'Hypersonic Missiles' summited the UK album charts emphatically whilst also receiving wide critical acclaim. Two years later Fender returns with a new, nostalgic sound, and a much anticipated follow up album. The Mic's Amrit Virdi breaks down 'Seventeen Going Under'.

Geordie singer-songwriter Sam Fender has returned with his second long-awaited studio album Seventeen Going Under, an instrumentation led, but lyrically rich record which you can see Fender has poured his own emotion and experiences into, from when he himself was ‘seventeen going under’. As on his debut album Hypersonic Missiles, Fender sings of his experiences living in North Shields, continuing the recurring motifs in his discography, however Fender recently admitted in an interview that this "feels like his debut record" as it is his only body of work which was written cohesively, all at once, during lockdown.

"Long Way Off is driven by a heavy drumbeat and gradually crescendos to an epic instrumental interlude, perfected with the addition of brass and simple yet sing-along worthy lyrics."

Title track and lead single Seventeen Going Under kicks off the record, and this along with the also previously released track Get You Down are the songs which draw the most parallels to what fans can expect from the indie star – punchy electric guitars, a dominating drumbeat and, of course, a saxophone addition courtesy of Fender’s band member Johnny Davis. Seventeen Going Under in particular aptly sums up the following tracks, with Fender’s storytelling lyricism captivating the listener as they feel engrossed in the scenes of teenage fighting, family troubles and life in North Shields.

Self-reflection and self-realisation are phrases which I would say define the tone of the tracks, especially with lyrics such as "I catch myself in the mirror, see a pathetic little boy" in Get You Down and "I can talk to anyone, can’t talk to you" in Spit Of You. According to Sam, the latter was written about "boys and their dads", and he drew upon his experiences with his own father in an effort to help fans who may relate. Mantra also opens with a lesson, to "please stop trying to impress people who don’t care about you". One which Fender no doubt has learnt during his time in the tough music industry.

Set for a headline arena tour next year for which he has already sold out Wembley Stadium, the anthemic, energy raising moments in the record make it perfect for live performance. Long Way Off is driven by a heavy drumbeat and gradually crescendos to an epic instrumental interlude, perfected with the addition of brass and simple yet sing-along worthy lyrics. Paradigms with its drumrolls and memorable chorus of "it breaks you up over time" is one which I can particularly see as raising spirits to a mosh pit worthy level in the crowd.

Angsty emotional releases such as Aye and Angel In Lothian are balanced out by stripped back moments, revealing a side of the singer which some people may not be used to if they became a fan after his hit single Hypersonic Missiles, which has now amassed over 57 million Spotify streams. Good Company is a completely acoustic guitar led track, which is Sam’s introspective take on his own personality, and Poltergeists is a piano ballad, which we have not heard from him before. The heavy instrumentation focus in Fender’s music can sometimes lead to his lyrical talent being overlooked and lost in the mix, so these minimal tracks make a refreshing finale to the deluxe edition.

Yet on this note, Last To Make It Home is my personal favourite, as it is combines the two worlds of ballads and angsty indie with its slow tempo, honest lyrics and intense mixture of drums and piano. The song leads into a welcome saxophone induced crescendo at the end that compliments Fender’s vocal trills in last notes of the chorus. To close, an electric guitar interlude brings in a more rock-and-roll element, drawing parallels to Fender’s biggest influence Bruce Springsteen.

Seventeen Going Under proves to be Fender’s mark in the music industry – the long wait for fans was worth it, and the incredible energy translated across in the studio versions will be even livelier and unmissable on the ‘Seventeen Going Under Tour’ next year.

Written by: Amrit Virdi

Edited by: Elliot Fox

In article images courtesy of Sam Fender via Facebook. Video courtesy of Sam Fender via YouTube.