Review: Sam Fender's Explosive Debut 'Hypersonic Missiles'


Everyone has something to say. Some people have more than others. One of these is for sure breakthrough Geordie singer-songwriter Sam Fender.
After a very successful EP - Dead Boys - Fender announced the release of his debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, which, now that is finally out, did not disappoint. With strong lyrics and captivating melodies, Fender was able to capture all the generational anger and pain in 13 songs, all characterized by strong and vibrating vocals. Our current era is a very peculiar time, historically, people get offended very easily and words are misinterpreted very often, but Sam Fender was not scared of the possible consequences. In fact, he wrote sharp and cutting lyrics to represent the world's actions.

Starting off with the song that gave the album its title, a strong personality emerges straight away: "Hypersonic Missiles" electrocutes the whole album through catchy drums and guitar riffs, enclosing deep and challenging lyrics in a fairly simple indie-rock tune. After such a stable start, the rhythm is picked up by the classic "The Borders" - Fender's favourite song. With this song, the true focuses of the album are revealed: small-town life, personal troubles, societal issues. Sam delivers some of his best vocal performances on this song, which has a light that shines on its own, given by the anger and passion the artist sings with: "you pinned me to the wall and smashed a bottle, your eyes, the door to hell and all within".

It is rare to see such lyricism in a 25-year-old, but Sam made it look easy in songs like "White Privilege" and "Play God". The former left me speechless. The smooth flow and phrasing make the extremely political message behind it even more intense, and suddenly a 25-year-old sounds much older than his age. There is a certain desperation and misery in these two songs, pretty difficult to describe. The haunting, repetitive phrasing in "White Privilege" gives it a certain independence; it is a break moment in the album and it makes the listener's heart burst with revelation.

"Nobody talks to each other for fear of different opinions, they call the bigots dumb for buying into fear from the papers"

The heart-wrenching "Dead Boys" is next, followed by what might be one of the strongest moments on this album: "You're Not The Only One". Sam's voice is strained and soulful and, even if it is a relatively simple song musically, it lifts the track in order for it to be a significant element in this collection of songs. It is okay to be broken, it is okay to realise and accept our identities, and this is exactly what this song is about. With a tear-jerking chorus, "You're Not The Only One" opens up the listeners' hearts and makes space for more powerful songs, such as "That Sound" which, in my opinion, has one of the best opening lines: "Serotonin stole the moment, the best of me was left under the bedsheets on that somber morning".

"Saturday", on the other hand, is probably the weakest song in Hypersonic Missiles, as it is a fairly banal track with a fun but repetitive melody. However, it has to be said that Fender's voice is quite amazing here, especially in the chorus.

"Will We Talk?" is next and, even if slightly reminiscent of The 1975, it is a great song. "There's no romance sprawled out across the couch," Fender sings before an ecstatic bridge and ending.
A very different tone is reached with "Two People", a heartbreaking acoustic ballad. With gospel tendencies and an intimate atmosphere, the 10th track holds a special place in this album. Fender decided to get completely naked in front of the microphone, showing the listeners a side of him not everyone had noticed before. There can be two different faces on a medal, and "Two People", in the context of such an impactful album, is the perfect example. It is not a boring song, even if it can seem a bit monotonous, but it is a song that has to be understood and accepted, it is a song that brings some light in the dark and worrying environment Fender decided to describe in his debut.

"Two people under bedsheets, one does whatever he pleases, one tries to speak to Jesus but Jesus won't hear a sound..."

The simplicity Sam Fender delivers his message with is almost terrifying. He could have chosen to produce an anonymous album in order to sell more, but he has decided to be true to himself instead and say what he needed to say. There is no one like him in the industry at the moment and this only gives him honor; there is a palpable urge to speak up about what he cares about and it only makes Hypersonic Missiles more interesting and genuine.

Following Bruce Springsteen and U2's footsteps, the best song on the album is presented to the world with a stiff but intense beginning: "Call Me Lover." Taking a more soulful and rested turn, this song is the most elaborate, both musically and vocally. It captures the listener with its captivating rhythm, and there is a certain mystery and mischief in his interpretation that only appear in this track. The chorus opens up before a restless violin takes the bridge's hand towards another explosion in a two-part chorus, that sees the most passion Fender has delivered up until now.

"These things we're taking make us run our mouths, but we never say anything"

The last two songs are the most stripped-down, but just as intense as the others. The melancholic "Leave Fast" is about how problematic and tiring it can be to live in a small English town, seeing all the problems and injustices that characterize it. His deep and eternal voice explodes during the chorus, "An old man told me 'leave fast, or stay forever'". Sam Fender is a story-teller, and it is perfectly visible in this song, which flows very smoothly and naturally, yet still communicates important topics and concerns. The transition to the closing track "Use" is very subtle, and Fender chose to release the live version of it, making it even more raw and authentic. The atmosphere at this point is feverish, again we see a naked and vulnerable Sam in front of the listener, but he is not afraid to speak up.

"Dig my heel in the ground to think that you had the notion that I wouldn't make a sound..."

Overall, Hypersonic Missiles is a mature and strong album. Sam Fender proves that he is not just a basic songwriter, and most importantly that he does not obey the unwritten rules of censorship. He gave freedom of speech a new dignity, a new identity, a new silhouette. Especially now, we tend to forget that there are things happening outside our house's walls, and Fender has been able to depict a perfect photograph of the tragedy and deafening silence that surround us. He interrupted that silence and made his voice heard. He described himself as a white male full of shame, but he has proven to be so much more than that. Is this debut album perfect? No, but he is a promise to nowadays' music industry, and perhaps, with Hypersonic Missiles, he made the world a better place.

"My ancestry is evil, and their evil is still not gone..."


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