Angel of the north Sam Fender has finally graced our ears with his highly anticipated debut album Hypersonic Missiles. Bursting with flavour, this thirteen track colossus is a masterpiece.
Recorded in bedrooms, sheds and purpose-built studios in North Shields, Hypersonic Missiles showcases the talent that earned Sam the Brits Critics' Choice award almost a year ago. There is a DIY feel about the album, being produced by close friend Bramwell Bronte as well as the band members being similarly good friends and local boys, the music comes naturally home-grown. A whopping seven tracks on the album have been pre-released, leaving six unreleased (although fans may recognise some from live shows). The artist himself deems his debut to be a "chocolate selection box of Sammy Fender", in that it may not seem wholly cohesive but rather chronicles his music up until now. Hypersonic Missiles depicts his development and maturation both sonically and lyrically. Let's jump straight in...
The first track, the title track, throws us straight in at the deep end. The song is, quite frankly, seismic. Fender's voice cuts through almost immediately, lamenting not just the absurdity of nuclear warfare but of the Western World more generally. The steady rhythm bursts into a huge mosaic of sound at the chorus. The end of verse 3 culminates in a wicked saxophone solo (KEEEEMON!!) before the rousing bridge which is guaranteed to get every audience member singing along. A dystopian echoey synth creeps in on track two, 'The Borders', before another explosively energetic melody kicks off. This one is a definite foot tapping, finger clicking anthem. Sam's epic storytelling depicts two boys growing up together, presenting the disparity between them and how it affects their relationships. This track really reminded me of 'An Ocean Between the Waves' by The War on Drugs with its unwavering rhythm and winding guitars (not to mention track length!). Again, the sax solo is killer and special mention goes to the line "we ain't got a penny between wuh" - just one example where Sam infuses the track with his personality.
On listening to the third track, 'White Privilege', I immediately knew it was going to be widely appreciated and admired. The lyricism is just remarkable. 'White Privilege' is spoken word poetry that confronts complex, heavy topics head on. It captures emotions and opinions that many refuse to acknowledge. One example that stood out was the heavy influence of 'celebrity-ism' and social media on self-love and self-worth encapsulated in the line "I wanna be anybody but me'. Towards the end, Sam's vocal range takes centre stage as he closes the track with chillingly beautiful high notes. An important track which is executed to perfection. 'Dead Boys' is a track that is just as moving. Documenting a reaction to the loss of someone through suicide, 'Dead Boys' is both vital and essential for raising awareness. Sonically, it inspires frustration, confusion but also a kind of defiance. The power of music, particularly this song, can be seen in the influence it had on a Radio 5 live listener who sought help after hearing Sam on the radio. Speaking on this for Virgin Radio, Sam himself commented that because of this, "Dead Boys have given me my most proud moment of my life".
Following this are 'You're Not The Only One', 'Play God' and 'That Sound'. Three certified rockers that celebrate powerful percussion, remarkable guitar and intricate lyricism. The momentum of the album is in full flow by the time we get to 'Saturday', a modern day '9 to 5'. The tone of the song itself depicts the plight of the worker, Monday to Friday are represented by the slow, trudging verses before climaxing in a vivacious chorus for the weekend. It's a belter, and even the stripped down version Sam occasionally does in a live set is powerfully stirring. 'Will We Talk?', an ode to one night stands, continues the high energy with the addition of strings and a reference to New Order. 'Two People' and 'Call Me Lover' are two tracks that Sam wrote (and even recorded some parts for!) over four years ago. The former is a more acoustic track that tackles the complicated dynamics of domestic violence whereas the latter is a brazen pop track about unrequited love. 'Call Me Lover' incorporates more strings which really compliment the pounding bass drum and intricate guitar riffs.
The twelfth track, 'Leave Fast' is fan favourite. Dreamy, delicate and rather eerie, this song succinctly verbalises the fraught relationship someone may have with their hometown: 'leave fast or stay forever'. There is something hauntingly beautiful about the wavering tones of the chorus, it is both chilling and soothing. This is continued at the close with a deep, loud guitar - played by Dean Thompson, one of Fender's 'best mates'. At a live show, the moment these two friends come together is really quite touching. Finally, 'Use - Live' closes the album. Stripped down to just vocals and piano, the live track proves that not only is Sam an incredible recorded artist but a phenomenal live one as well. The final, "thank you" *applause* concludes the album with perfect closure.
Hypersonic Missiles is a real triumph. It is wonderfully eclectic, both sonically and thematically, ranging from rousing to heart-wrenching, euphoric to apprehensive, warm to eerie. There is something for everyone, just like a chocolate selection box (although there certainly isn't a bounty!). Like a classic debut album, it documents Sam's journey so far and teases what there is to come. In various interviews since its release the artist has indicated that the next album is already written and it just needs to be recorded. It's clear that Sam Fender is raring to create more music and I already can't wait to hear it.
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