In Review: Shame - Drunk Tank Pink
If nothing else, Shame are excellent at naming their records. Drunk Tank Pink follows on from their 2018 debut Songs of Praise, which set them up as a band to watch, with stand out tracks like 'Dust on Trial', 'The Lick' and 'Tasteless' pulling no punches both musically and in terms of lyricisms (even if some may fall into being a little cheesy). They’ve been relatively quiet in the last year or so (as most bands have to be fair), and to their credit they’ve avoided the classic trope of releasing an album every year, and Drunk Tank Pink most definitely profits from that.
Written mostly after a lengthy span of touring, their writing is much more inward facing. With themes of isolation and suppression throughout, it feels incredibly reflective of now. Even more incredibly though, the album was written in 2019, being finished in January 2020 just before everything changed.
Whereas some more recent indie post-punk releases sound more like rock bands from a few decades ago, Shame have definitely retained their edge throughout the record. Especially impressive is the continual playfulness of Charlie Steen’s vocal performance. At no point does it feel disengaged, or like a recording session - most of the album (like most good albums) feels like it could be live, and its his vocal movement which draws you much further into the album.
Though some tracks have become more complex compositionally, not many carry the loud and quiet nature of the first album, which for this reason felt almost darker than this one even if lyrically it wasn’t really. Like most bands part of the post-punk revival, there is such an onus on the polish and playing ability that they can seem to lose that roughness that once made post punk what it was and I would say that this has also tinged Shame a little. Like many revivals there is always that question of the balance of truth and facade.
The second album always seems to be the making or breaking of a band, and as with any genre that involves a resurgence, post-punk is at times beginning to sound a little tired. Shame seem to have avoided that syndrome - though the music may not be quite as eye catching as some of their first album, the lyrical content most certainly has.
Songs of Praise was a very extrospective record with some of the lyrics hidden more behind ego, and tracks like 'Nigel Hitter' retain Shame's memorable sound, but by writing about the mundane Drunk Tank Pink suggests a new sense of maturity, and longevity, for what are still one of the UK's more exciting new bands.
Drunk Tank Pink is out now via Dead Oceans.