Album Review: Shame – Songs of Praise

Prophets of punk, bringers of the revolution – Shame are everything that this generation’s been waiting for. Thrust from the streets of South London to the festival stages of Europe, 2017 saw the raucous quintet explode to become one of the industry’s hottest and most talked about acts. But with singles only minimally satisfying a hungry crowd, 2018 has been the year to welcome the debut release from school mates Charlie Steen (vocals), Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green (guitars), Josh Finerty (bass) and Charlie Forbes (drums).

Released via Dead Oceans, Songs of Praise is exactly what it says on the tin – a twisted assortment of ten stonking numbers that poke fun at the contemporary establishment. It’s a gospel compilation, biblical of sorts, that sees the London quintet preach true the banality of British politics and casual everyday life. In short, it’s a daring album that sets Shame apart from their vapid indie counterparts.

The brooding pessimism of ‘Dust on Trial’ makes the track a sensible choice to open Songs of Praise. Steen’s lyrics are raw, Forbes’ drumming even more so. It’s three minutes that instantly portray the five’s musical talent, with Coyle-Smith and Green throwing in haphazard riffs here and there to catapult the number to new heights.

Since they screamed their way onto the scene back in those early school days, Shame have become increasingly renowned for their frenzied live shows – and to capture such attitude on record can often be punk’s downfall. But Songs of Praise is cleverer than that. ‘Gold Hole’ drags its catalystic self along, giving a nod to fellow brash Londoners Fat White Family with throaty vocals; the in-your-face, FIDLAR-sounding riff on lead single ‘Concrete’ is enough to shut up anyone still doubtful. There’s certainly no energy lost here.

There’s passion on ‘Tasteless’, fury on the bitesize ‘Donk’. But whilst remaining true to its angry roots, Songs of Praise is so much more than thumping basslines and frantic drums. ‘One Rizla’ delves into different territory altogether, a twangy tune that throws out some reverb guitar to break it all up. The infectiousness of ‘Friction’, too, lays out Shame’s furious attitude in a more optimistic manner. The versatility of the five is commendable.

Taking aim at the monotonous with a dazzling amount of self-awaredness, Steen is a beat poet in the making, his lyrics enviably striking. By the time the delectable ‘Angie’ rolls round for a final farewell, Shame’s signature bitter aftertaste ironically leaves you wanting more.

Leaving little to critique but lots to adore, Songs of Praise is a fiery debut from a band who’ve sparked a new breed of revolutionary punk. It’s an album with so much to say, and it says it fucking well. Shame have truly kicked off the new year in style – and, knowingly or not, have set the standards ridiculously high for other 2018 albums to follow.

CATCH SHAME ON TOUR THIS APRIL:

BRISTOL – THEKLA
LIVERPOOL – THE MAGNET
SHEFFIELD – LEADMILL
10 LEEDS – BRUDENELL
11 NEWCASTLE – THE CLUNY
12 GLASGOW – STEREO
13 MANCHESTER – GORILLA
14 NOTTINGHAM – RESCUE ROOMS
16 LEICESTER – THE COOKIE
17 BIRMINGHAM – HARE & HOUNDS
19 OXFORD – THE BULLINGDON
20 BRIGHTON – THE HAUNT
21 TUNBRIDGE WELLS – THE FORUM

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