UK post-punks return after a Shame-less 2020

Posted on 20 January 2021
By Alex Usher
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Loud-mouth South London lads Shame return with a brooding and atmospheric set of songs, that almost perfectly encapsulates life in 2021.

Shame’s postponed sophomore album is named after the shade of pink singer Charlie Steen used to paint the inside of a closest in his home during a period of self-imposed isolation.

The same colour is often used in drunk tanks and is known for its calming effects; ironic given the albums tense nature.

This self-imposed isolation was carried out by the whole band well before the rest of the world had to lock themselves away and was a response to their hectic lifestyle of touring and partying after their 2018 debut, Songs of Praise.

The Shame lads are run down, frustrated and tired, and these feelings are encapsulated as the band struggle with adulthood.

Despite being recorded before the pandemic and having a delayed release, Shame have been able to capture what life in 2021 feels like – a spiralling whirlwind of anxiety, monotony, and chaos.

Nearly every sense of playfulness and colour from Songs of Praise have evaporated into a darker, moodier post-punk sound. “Colour slips away/Just like it always does” singer Charlie Steen sings in frustration on the churning slow-burner ‘Snow Day’.

The track sees the band try their hand at doomsday rock, with abrasive vocals, twitchy guitar licks and a mammoth sound; it’s a refreshing to hear such a well-rounded sound on a second project. The track spirals with a sense of sleep deprivation and isolation; feelings I’m sure we’ve all become used to.

Closing track ‘Station Wagon’ is another slow burner that brings out the theatrical side of Steen, with a harrowing spoken word passage that elevates into a howl over a constantly building instrumental.

‘Nigel Hitter’ carries heavy a Talking Heads meets Parquet Courts influence, with its shimmering, almost funky guitar, and an obscurely groovy bassline, while Steen chants about the repetitiveness of day-to-day life and his frustration with it: “Will this day ever end?/ I need a new beginning/ It just goes on/ It just goes on”. The track feels like the start of the bands spiral into depression across the record, as from here we just go deeper down the rabbit hole.

Standout track ‘Born in Luton’ starts with a hint of the charm seen from Songs of Praise, but quickly transitions into an explosion of irritation and loneliness through a sheer wall of sound.

This matured sound is partly through the guidance of producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals) who has elevated the bands sound to an entirely new level.

Shame sound like they are pushing their limitations, as well as those of the noises their instruments can make – just look no further than the siren-like guitar on ‘March Day’. Much like ‘Nigel Hitter’, ‘Water in the Well’ has a strong Talking Heads influence but offers a blaring hook that already sounds timeless.

‘Great Dog’ is a frantic raging number, which refuses to take its foot off the gas, before throwing you straight into the one-two punch of ‘6/1’ and ‘Harsh Degrees’.

Both tracks are filled with frenzied drumming capitalising on the energy of the previous track, partnered perfectly with eerie guitar licks that loop around and around.

Drunk Tank Pink isn’t packed with catchy hooks that lodge themselves in your brain for months on end, but what it does offer is an urgent artistic message, that many would be able to resonate with after a very trying year.

A 41-minute dive into a constant cycle of claustrophobic hopelessness probably shouldn’t be as engaging as it is, but Shame have created something special on Drunk Tank Pink.

The record gets under your skin and it sucks you into the bleak, tedious life of the band during recording and it’s all the better for it.

The band have used Songs of Praise as a building block to innovate their sound and are without a doubt one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now.

4/5 stars