Album of the week: Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under (LP 2021)
You know that meme that’s been around for months now that says “tell me x without telling me x”? good for Sam fender and his second album Seventeen in progress, this meme could definitely be used here in the form of “tell me you listened to Bruce Springsteen and The Killers heaps while writing your album, without telling me that you listened to Bruce Springsteen and The Killers heaps during the writing your album “. Barely two years after his first album Hypersonic missiles, Fender managed to release a thrilling rock album, filled with the stage grandeur of Brandon Flowers, while reusing and building on the saxophone and piano strengths of Springsteen’s finest.
While only on his second LP, Fender has felt like it has been on the cusp of fame for quite some time now. Hailed as one of the great white hopes by the British press (as they seem to do too often), Seventeen in progress presents a more pressing and sometimes darker side to Fender’s writing and lyricism. As a fan of his debut album and his ability to translate that into a live show worth seeing (his 2019 Splendor set was outstanding), it is quite clear to me that Fender has progressed exponentially on Seventeen in progress, even though some songs sound as if they could have been recorded during Hypersonic missile sessions.
As the album’s opening track, lead single, and titular song, “Seventeen Going Under” comes under a lot of pressure to be one of the album’s defining moments. Well, all that pressure has created a diamond. Opening to a distinctive guitar hook, Fender’s vocals are both firm while showing a quivering level of innocence and desperation, almost as if he’s afraid of what the content of the song can bring. The addition of the saxophone compensates for the hammering consistency of the drums but rounds off the song quite smoothly. In the same vein as “Seventeen Going Under”, “Gettin ‘Started” is a very apt descriptor of the song and the beginning of the album. The first two tracks kick things off in a very specific trajectory and set in motion the rest of what turns out to be a very solid outing.
It is clear from the titles and content of the first two pieces that Seventeen in progress is an album built around the youth of Fender. Reflecting much of the trials and tribulations he (and many others) faced growing up, there is anger, misunderstandings, and a general contempt for authority strewn across the album. This is evident in the “Aye”, a politically slightly aggressive hymn that moves away from the overall vibe of the album, without completely withdrawing from the realm. Staying in that same world of anger, “Long Way off” is a more melancholy and methodical take from an artist who is already starting to tire and understand how the world really is cooked.
The album slows down and shows a more sincere side of an already sincere artist on “Spit of You”, “Mantra” and “Last to Make it Home”, the latter being a tender piano ballad where Fender reflects on his own flaws. and try to reckon with himself on how to be a better person. With a similar urgency to “Aye”, “The Leveller”, with its carefully hidden string section and energetic guitar solos, is the exact song that will complete a main set at festivals. His closing minute is an absolute joy to savor.
One of the biggest takeaways in Seventeen in progress is the aforementioned influence of bands and artists like Springsteen (especially on the album pic and the secret sad song “Get You Down”), The Killers, The War On Drugs and to a lesser extent The National . The album has the joys and euphoria associated with Springsteen and The Killers, the preparation for the road trip soundtrack of The War on Drugs and the melancholy urgency of The National. These qualities are most apparent on “Paradigms”, a hidden treat arriving penultimate on the album. Continuing more closely “The Dying Light,” a song that could have been straight out of Dave Le’aupepe’s diaries with its slow build and symphonic ending, the album ends with nothing more than happiness and satisfaction. of what has just been delivered.
This is evident from the start and until the end of Seventeen in progress that Sam Fender is an artist more than happy to play his youthful life on an album within everyone’s reach. It might not lend itself very well to being turned into a meme, but Seventeen in progress is a solid indication of a musician who finds his marks musically and holistically.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Seventeen in progress releases Friday October 8. You can follow Sam Fender on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and its website
Header image credit Jack Whitefield