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Sam Fender - Hypersonic Missiles - CD -

Price per Unit (stuk): €19.95

Sam Fender seems to have arrived direct from central casting: Brit Critics’ Choice award 2019 winner, nominated in 2018’s BBC Sound Of poll, looks like a model, background in acting, here we go again. Which means his debut album comes as a shock: a major label in 2019 appears to have signed a male British singer-songwriter who doesn’t conform to the standard late 2010s male British singer-songwriter blueprint. He has neither a beard nor a beanie hat, declines to play the acoustic guitar as his primary instrument and seems to have refused to work with the same pool of writers and producers as everyone else. The songs on Hypersonic Missiles bear Fender’s name alone, while the production comes courtesy of a friend called Bramwell Bronte.

Furthermore, Fender doesn’t sing in the officially designated style that all British male singer-songwriters currently adhere to. It perhaps tells you more about the times than about Sam Fender that there’s something striking about hearing a mainstream rock vocalist who actually sounds like a human being – with a distinct hint of the north-east about his vowels and the occasional unexpected appearance of a “wor” in lieu of an “our” – rather than a preposterous collage of mannerisms, affectations and faux-bluesy got-a-hellhound-on-my-trail-at-the-fresher’s-fair bellowing. Given the music industry’s obsession with giving us more of the same, how did this bloke get past security?

The sound of Hypersonic Missiles is rooted in the US heartlands rock of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, albeit usually underpinned with tense, new wave-ish rhythms that imply Fender may have come to the former via the Strokes and the latter via the War on Drugs: there’s a distinct hint of the latter’s tendency to hypnotic, motorik beats about the pulse of The Borders or the drum machine-driven You’re Not the Only One. Will We Talk? makes good capital from the kind of relentless, supercharged guitar jangle Petty minted on 1976’s American Girl, while the spell Springsteen has cast over Fender extends not just to his desire to write stuff that sounds grittily anthemic, but to employing a sax player to honk in the style of the late Clarence Clemons. It’s testament to how confident his own songwriting is that while Fender’s influences are audible, they’re not overwhelming: you can tell who he’s been listening to, but that scarcely seems to matter as the title track blazes along or the chorus of Saturday bursts forth. What’s here doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s very well done.

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