The opening prelude to ‘Dead Boys’ is haunting. The almost chanting vocals layered over glassy guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Band of Horses album sound cinematic when put together. It’s evocative of the feelings that ‘Dead Boys’ brings out of people. By the time ‘Dead Boys’ does come around the mood is set up perfectly.
The song is dark and it’s moving. Singing in falsetto lyrics like “the anniversaries are short lived but come around at breakneck speed” and “close our eyes, learn our pain” illustrate the point without overcomplicating the writing, something Fender has always done well.
When the chorus bursts in it’s met with bittersweet euphoria, I can’t quite describe it. It’s a release of all the feelings we harbour towards the topic, the anger that these standards still exist in society, the grief of the people we’ve lost and the acceptance of letting go.
‘Spice’ is a roaring rollercoaster about spice the drug and the downward spiral that users take, which is all too common in the North East in the past few years. There’s a lot to unpack on ‘Poundshop Kardashians’ which examines pop culture and specifically the disconnect Sam Fender feels for it.
It’s everything wrong with the internet, imitating people who are famous for being famous yet wanting to see them fall from grace then coming out to eulogise their deaths like it wasn’t us that caused their downfall in most cases. There’s big examples like the Kardashians but there’s no doubt that local cases like Gazza’s fall from grace that’ll have influenced this, particularly the line about “disheveled on the front of The Mail”.
Musically it’s Smiths-y, there’s an earworm riff to almost distract from the lyrics. Fender’s vocals are remeniscent of Conor Mason at times, slipping seamlessly through the chorus. ‘That Sound’ is drenched in big 80’s influenced guitars that come in driving the song to it’s massive chorus, paired with Fender’s roaring vocals is a winning combo. With the reverb turned up to eleven the guitars are grungy and already sound like they belong on an epic U2 song from the early 90’s. ‘That Sound’ wouldn’t sound out of place in an angsty John Hughes film, playing out over the credits.
It channels a hefty portion of hometown rage, talking about the ‘green eyed monsters’ that envy those who get out purely because it’s not them that did it. It also deals with keeping feet on the ground and how to keep going through it all. Fender’s songwriting is exceptional here, matching that of greats like Springsteen and Buckley. There’s immediacy to his tone and writing that makes his tracks even more striking.
‘Leave Fast’ is haunting. The story is ‘archetypal’ as the man himself puts it. More than just the North East, the track goes into general UK life at the moment and giving yourself a life outside of small towns or dead end jobs in Tory Britain.
‘Leave Fast’ is particularly sad in the way it plays off the two ideals of being from the North East. There’s pride in having Northern roots and knowing you’ve made your own way in life but then there’s a bittersweet twist in knowing that there’s no life in staying in Newcastle your whole life. It’s about knowing that you have to leave your home to make something of yourself.
There’s a charm to Sam Fender’s songwriting, there’s no hidden meaning. He doesn’t mince his words, he clears expresses what he wants to say even on topics like male suicide in ‘Dead Boys’ where even the most experienced lyricists have failed to make their intent clear. Despite being only in his early twenties, Fender has lived some life.
Being in the North East in recent years has hardened a lot of people to the realities of austerity and life in Tory Britain but somehow Fender doesn’t become worn down it all. I remember being young and hearing songs that referenced places and things local to the singer but it’s taken nearly a decade for me to feel that about my own town but finally my time has come. I’ve driven down the beehive road, I’ve been to the Low Lights and this EP feels like home.
Listen to Sam Fender’s ‘Dead Boys’ EP here.
Featured Image: Matty Snelling