“I am so blissfully unaware of everything,” Sam Fender sings on “Hypersonic Missiles”, the opening track to his debut album of the same name. Somehow you doubt it – on this record the North Shields-born singer-songwriter sounds hyper-aware of the pressing issues of our time, and rarely has an artist of his generation sung about them so eloquently.

Fender’s are songs of disillusionment, impoverished towns, ego-centric popular culture, privilege and male suicide. It’s an astonishing first album – the 25-year-old never preaches, and if anything, he’s most critical about himself. On standout “The Borders” he shares his guilt upon returning home to find a friend has not been so lucky as him; “White Privilege” offers searing home truths about the establishment, smug liberalism, and people who worship at the altar of Instagram culture.

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Then there’s “Dead Boys – sung in a falsetto that recalls Nothing But Thieves’ Conor Mason – which is as much an indictment of class divide (a 2017 study found a strong link between disadvantage and suicide) as it is a heart-rending portrayal of depression: “We all tussle with the black dog/ Some out loud and some in silence/ Everybody ‘round here just drinks/ ‘Cause that’s our culture.”

Fender drew plenty of early comparisons to Bruce Springsteen – on Hypersonic Missiles they’re entirely warranted, as much for the instrumentation as the lyricism and his vignettes of working-class struggle. There are sax solos (more than one), and pounding rhythms that make you want to jump in a car and drive down a highway at sunset, and blistering electric guitars next to classic troubadour acoustics. He has Springsteen’s rousing holler, and the early indications of someone who could be the voice of a generation – not because he wants to be, but because he sees things and understands. 

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