Before coming to Newcastle I had only heard whisperings of Sam Fender, the Tyneside artist who everyone kept talking about as the next big British solo act. As usual I dismissed these claims and didn’t bother listening. However, coming to the North-East and Newcastle University in particular you become aware of Sam Fender whether you like it or not, his voice is an ever-present feature of Toon life nowadays. So I decided to go along to his homecoming gig in the Venue earlier this month and haven’t looked back since. Since that time Fender’s new 6-track EP Dead Boys has released- its been on repeat ever since in my headphones, so much that I’m surprised the play button functions anymore.
I was wrong about Sam Fender. He’s the real deal. Dead Boys blows my mind every time I listen to it. The Prelude opens with a beautiful arpeggio guitar segment overlayed with cascading strings and Sam’s distant vocals crying out in an almost hymn-like introduction before the guitar deepens in the transition to the title track. Dead Boys is an anthem for men in the modern world, an introspective look into the very real world of male suicide and how this is often overlooked. Fender shows real lyrical talent on this track, resonating with issues that many men- and people in general- are often reluctant to talk about and bringing them to the forefront of his music.
‘Spice’ and ‘Poundshop Kardashians’ are two more rock driven tracks both telling largely different stories. Spice is a sad tale but largely grounded in reality for many in society, telling of the dangerous effects of addiction and how easily it can all go wrong. Despite its largely dark lyrical content, the track is surprisingly upbeat and the catchy chorus of “Spice up your life” is a real crowd pleaser. Poundshop Kardashians is similarly catchy, openly criticizing a modern culture where we “idolize idiots” with the title mocking a society which tries to replicate their Beverly Hills lifestyle.
‘That Sound’ can be considered Sam’s declaration against the naysayers and a warning against people who want to take advantage of his rising stock. Again, Fender’s talent shines through his lyrics making reference to “green-eyed beasts” who see pound signs and his name up in lights.
However, while all these tracks would combine for a perfectly good EP, ‘Leave Fast’ takes an already great debut and immortalises it. Leave Fast is a track which has become very close to my heart since release and captures the “bleak but beautiful” effect I seek in music all the time. Telling a story of a forgotten coastal town, Sam paints a picture that all students can attest to after leaving home for the first time, a feeling of real love and attachment alongside the ultimate realisation that to achieve your dreams you have to go. Fender’s vocals are at their best here, sending the message that you either “leave fast or stay forever” before wailing out to sea. ‘Leave Fast’ will become synonymous with the North East coastline and North Shields, just as I feel like I’m walking through a Smiths song in Manchester, people will feel like they’re walking through a Sam Fender song.
I’ll say it again. I was wrong about Sam Fender. Dead Boys now represents a defining moment in my life, of a time where I’ve moved away from home and made new friends. It’s as perfect a debut as you can get and I urge anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of listening yet to do just that. Years from now, people may ask “Where were you when you listened to Dead Boys for the first time?” and whether you’re sat down by the Quayside or walking up Lover’s Lane you’ll always remember the time Sam Fender changed your life.