Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #61: Penultimate

And on the penultimate day, the satchel did break. 

We've been through a lot together, that old bag and me. I've had it since I started teaching, and before I even walked into The Bad Place. Tucked away in one of the pockets I found two train tickets from December 2011, when I'd written my car of in an accident and had to make the journey to work on the most antiquated train line in the country. (Never travel from Huddersfield to Barnsley by rail.)

10 years isn't bad for a faux-leather hold-all bought down the market. All the crap I've carried home in it over the years (including the laptop I had to teach on during lockdown), it's more than served its purpose. I'm sorry to say goodbye, but its death seems symbolic of my new beginning. 

My old mate Steve messaged me a couple of weeks back to ask if I'd heard any Sam Fender. I was initially dismissive as I'd seen the headline about his latest album going to Number One and outselling the rest of the Top Ten in its first week... and all I could think of was Ed Sheeran. There is a cult of white male singer songwriters that dominate their own corner of popular music in recent years through sheer blandness. Sheeran, Chris Martin, James Blake, Tom Walker... cosy, safe colossi with nothing to say for themselves lyrically beyond surface good times and heartache.

"Guess who they're comparing him to?" said Steve. 

"Fender’s primary influence," says Alex Pertridish in The Grauniad, "is still Bruce Springsteen, mostly in soaring-anthems-decorated-with-saxophone mode, although the reflective piano ballad Boss of Racing in the Street or Stolen Car lurks behind closer The Dying Light."

But that's another thing that winds me up. Anyone that writes half decent lyrics these days gets compared to The Boss. Even Lady Gaga. It's a lazy journalistic comparison right up there with the critics who lumped Bruce in with the "new Dylan" crowd back in the early 70s.

All that said, this new Sam Fender record bears further listening. The title track is an instant classic, mixing brutal, autobiographical imagery with a soaring "woa-oa-oah!" chorus. 

See I spent my teens enraged
Spiralling in silence
And I armed myself with a grin
'Cause I was always the fuckin' joker
Buried in their humour
Amongst the white noise and boys' boys
Locker-room talkin' lads' lads
Drenched in cheap drink and snide fags
A mirrored picture of my old man
Oh God, the kid's a dab hand
Canny chanter, but he looks sad

North Shields is a long way from New Jersey, and there's as much Weller or Terry Hall or even Geldof in those lines as there is Bruce. But still, it's encouraging to see songwriting such as this at the top of the charts. Gives me hope for the next generation...


  1. Hmm. I clicked play expecting pretty much nothing, and to have clicked stop within 30 seconds. But that's alright, actually.

    1. Pretty much what happened to me. And then I fell down a rabbit hole.

  2. The guy's alright with me:

    Sorry to hear about your satchel! It looks well-loved but I agree, its demise seems most symbolic!

    1. That's a great interview. I like him even more after reading that.

  3. My first thoughts were the same as yours - an Ed Sheeran knock off, or one of those "how many notes can I squeeze into this word" merchants.
    I was wrong, and that track aint half bad.

  4. And he sings with a Geordie accent.

    The satchel knew, but misjudged by a day.

  5. The lyrics are good and made the link to the interview posted above which I recall skimming a few weeks ago. Will give the songs a go.

    The satchel deserves a Viking burial. Put it on a pallet on the Leeds/ Liverpool canal and set fire to it

    1. Watch for it floating past next time you're out on a walk.


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