The band’s much-anticipated sophomore record is filled with genre-bending and Talking Heads-isms.
Recorded in France with producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Gorillaz), English post-punk band Shame were careful not to fall into the struggle of second album syndrome on Drunk Tank Pink. Endless worldwide tours in support of 2018’s Songs of Praise left the band homesick and disconnected from their lives, themselves and their music.
To combat this they purposely crafted a completely fresh beast, toying with alternate guitar tunings, unique drum beats, and lyrics written primarily in a pink painted cupboard of a small London flat.
Early track ‘Born In Luton’ is the album’s biggest stroke of brilliance. Fans already got a taste of it with a live video released on YouTube, rumoured to be part of an upcoming Shame concert film. Taking a relatively simple yet energetic riff from the Bloc Party writing room, they transform it into an emotional cinematic adventure. There’s a dancefloor-worthy groove alongside a heavy dose of punk prowess, and it’s sure to become a future indie-disco classic.
‘Snow Day’ is the other centrepiece of the album; a bellowing five-minute punk symphony with no obvious structure. At times, frontman Charlie Steen sings like a preacher commanding his followers, shouting below stained glass windows, arms wide. It’s the perfect way to end side A, before the surreal slow groove of ‘Human, For A Minute’ kicks in.
While there’s plenty of genre-bending and Talking Heads-isms throughout the LP, ‘Great Dog’ is the most obvious throwaway Shame track. Through their clenched-teeth catch cries you can almost feel the band lunging at each other in the studio, replicating the energy of a dog-eared bar room brawl.
Album closer ‘Station Wagon’ pounds in the pop culture references, name dropping ’50s teenage icon James Dean and Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, before ushering towards an Elton John-inspired rant about clouds. Sounds simple on paper, but in line with the music this could be a real spiritual experience.
Without planning to, Shame have crafted one of the most refreshing pieces of guitar music in decades, and from drawing on sounds of the past, they’ve managed to create something that is very here and now, sophisticated, and fun all at the same time.
Drunk Tank Pink is out on Friday January 15 through Dead Oceans/Inertia Music. Score a copy here.
Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.