Shame - Songs of Praise (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Songs of Praise (2018)

Dead oceans

The members of British post-punk band Shame are angry young men. On their debut album Songs of Praise, they shape that anger into a dirty, furious beast.

Almost misleading, the album art for Songs of Praise shows the five guys holding pigs, looking like proper gentlemen or, at the very least, sweet and tender. The music however, tells a different story. From its first track, Songs of Praise does nothing but bathe in catchy dissonance. The five-piece is charged up and, while clearly post-punk influenced, this is a punk rock record. Vocalist Charlie Steen is furious in his role as front man. “But if you think I love you, you’ve got the wrong idea,” Steen sings sounding like a riled up Frank Carter. On “Gold Hole,” he rages against an older married man and his mistress. The high-end lifestyle (manicures, NME, Louis Vuitton) often finds itself at the end of Steen’s wrath. When he shouts “No more questions!” on “Concrete,” he clearly doesn’t give a shit about anyone’s follow up.

Shame uses repetition to their advantage, creating riffs that are as memorable as they are menacing. While Steen expresses his anger, the guitars creep up and leave you uneasy, especially on The Fall influenced “The Lick”. The guitars of Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green never let you rest, one taking high-pitched repetition while the other violently assaults your ears. The same goes for Josh Finerty’s bass, mixed high enough for you to know he’s a dangerous force, always lurking. And if you’re looking to hear everyone at full speed, penultimate track “Lampoon” doesn’t leave you a chance to catch your breathe.

But Shame shows vulnerability too. The call and response on “Concrete”: “Do you feel alone?” “Well sometimes I do!” shows there is message of unity. On “One Rizla,” not all that dissimilar to The Vaccines, Steen sings, “My voice ain't the best you've heard and you can choose to hate my words, but do I give a fuck?” showing their defiant youthful vitality. But it’s closer “Angie” that proves these guys can make something beautiful, on their terms, of course.

It’s clear that Shame does not care what anyone thinks of them, which is a much easier stance when you’ve crafted something as excellent as Songs of Praise.