The men of Shame hit the Sheffield Leadmill stage early last year with a running start and they soon grabbed us by the balls. Shame live are a band with an uncompromising Stooges/Pistols/Fall punk style brought up to date with something of a mix of the swagger and confidence of The Stone Roses, Oasis and the narrative and depth of The Streets.
Lead singer Charlie Steen stared out at the audience with a rare and frightening intensity. Sheen proceeded to strip off a goodly proportion of his clothing before pouring a can of beer straight into his underpants. I guess it’s the only sensible thing to do with Red Stripe. Having obtained his fill of gently flicking another pint of beer into the crowd as he sat on the security railings singing, Sheen came over to the crowd, selected, and gently drew a man’s face to his sweaty beer-stained hairy chest.
I’ve seen the Fat White Family interact in a mad way with their audience, but Shame seemed to do it more naturally and less aggressively. Hell by the end of it I even wanted to sport that beery, sweaty face just so I could tell the tale.
Live is one thing, and sometimes that energy doesn’t translate to record. Now Shame have released their debut album, Songs of Praise, we can ask whether they perhaps are set to follow the Arctic Monkeys and Oasis as the guitar band of the decade? Dear reader, on the showing of debut album Songs of Praise, I truly suspect they may.
Songs of Praise
With Songs of Praise, Shame have lost none of their uncompromising sound; it’s ultimately a hard recording with tracks that are not instantly accessible; you have to work fairly hard to understand and get Shame. I have to conclude they hardly put a step wrong here, and this is a five star contender for album of 2018. Twelve days into the year and the competition may as well roll over and stay in bed.
Opener is the brooding Dust on Trial, where the promise of “I’ll always be here” becomes a threat rather than a promise. There’s a good thrusting bit of guitar on this track and Leeds legend Happa lent a hand to mix in some deeper electronic swirls to give it something of a Killing Joke edge. One Rizla is an oldie dating from 2014, and almost reflects that late school age anxiety that we are not perfect, and life pretty much sucks at that age. It has a strong rolling musical backdrop to it.
The Lick is my personal favourite track and amongst a number of songs I recall from the Leadmill gig. It’s an angry, nihilistic ramble about the futility of life, while there’s a menacing and yet despondent backing rumbling throughout. There’s a theme through the album about media being “relatable not debateable” and how there’s a risk in speaking out, and awkward truths not being heard. In our Trump and May world of blatant untruths and bland platitudes and sound bites this message is as important now as it ever has been. Donk is perhaps Shame’s Song 2, a short lively shouted “out of your nut” moment. It’s a very short track and to my mind offers homage to the original short, basic punk song of the late 70’s.
Gold Hole has something of a Stones rolling rhythm, and its lyrics are a deeply cynical and nicely vicious view of a young woman being bought by a wealthy older man. It’s a reworking of the original track released a little while ago, and seems a deeper and richer albeit slightly slower version. I like this new deep version and it suits the dark tone of Songs of Praise. Friction is another banging tune, with a good bit of baggy going on. The song highlights the friction between our thinking that the world is going in the right direction on a local level, and yet we continue to elect leaders who seem to wish to take us in a different direction.
Angie is the haunting piece to close the album. This is the tale of a man describing how he discovered his girlfriend had committed suicide and how he is affected. The lyrics feel like some kind of violent echo through time, and it’s a truly magnificent emotional tune.
In general terms the recording of the album is top notch, and it is clear the record label has invested top money into the recording of Songs of Praise given it was produced at top notch Rockfield Recording Studios. Some of the great rock albums were recorded here (including the Oasis classics) and I hope the Shame lads followed the tradition of a night or two out in the Nags Head in my home town while they were about.
Songs of Praise is a strong and confident debut from Shame and it’s refreshing to find some complex lyrics about meaningful matters that might just make the listener think. It’s an album with both a message and sound that’s well worth listening to.