Shame - "Songs of Praise"
Songs of Praise
Dead Oceans / January 12th 2018
The debut punk rock album "Songs of Praise" from South London’s Shame isn’t exactly chalked full of praise for anyone or anything. Raw and fearless, Lead Singer Charlie Steen speaks his mind. With lyrics like, “I like you better when you’re not around” (sung 16 times in a row) littered throughout the album, Steen and company walk the line between a bluntness and a grace, over a compact 38 minutes. Starting and ending with the two most ambitious songs on the 10-song album, “Songs of Praise” offers listeners flashes of brilliance. With glimpses of tremendous potential, Shame gives punk fans a rare excitement for the future of the genre.
The opener, “Dust on Trial” was one of the last tracks written by the band before recording, and its darker, metallic and heavy sound is a great teaser of things to come. It has a certain intricacy and plays subtly with time signatures. It creates a specific aesthetic that conjures up fist-raised emotion. Then, we are introduced to Charlie Steen. Showcasing his range that is going to be a constant on the album, he starts as a poet in a deep baritone, reciting a verse, to a screaming frontman with all the confidence in the world. Steen may not have the best voice, as he later sings about, but he owns his persona and is fully committed to his craft. This conviction in himself and his style more than makes up for his lack of polished vocal ability.
“Concrete” and “One Rizla” are the catalysts that elevate Shame to the forefront of the punk rock landscape. Ridiculously catchy and energetic, “Concrete” speeds to an angelic outro complete with the whole band singing as a choir. The band’s oldest tune, “One Rizla” is an introspective inward look for Steen, who muses “I’m not much to look at and I ain’t much to hear.” While he may not be the most refined singer, who wants that in a punk frontman? His voice carries a weight and depth that emphasizes the true feeling of each word. An outcry of hopelessness anyone can relate to. The backbone of these tracks are fun and simple, but creative riffs and clever song structure push the elements of conventional punk and “Songs of Praise” forward.
“The Lick” is a sexy tune that can be imagined blaring in the background of a smoke and sweat filled room. Steen spits fire over a verse injected with a wandering bass line that turns into a head-banger of a rock chorus. “Tasteless” is the most straightforward and complete song that anchors the album 5 tracks in. The song picks up speed from verse to chorus and plays with volume dynamics that allows the song to build bigger with each chorus. With more emphasis on the rhythm sections instead of melodies than in previous tracks, “Tasteless” gives Steen more room to breathe and you can feel this spit flying out his mouth through the speakers.
Awaiting listeners at the end is a surprisingly ambitious and gentle side of Shame. “Angie” is a sentimental and heartbreaking story of a suicide. A softer side of the band is balanced with mature and restrained guitar and bass work. Coming in close to 7 minutes, it is a perfect closer to an album that flies by with its compact punk riffs and ends with a gigantic climax. “Songs of Praise” has Shame flexing its muscles. It’s creative, it's loud, it's catchy, its punk rock. “Songs of Praise” is not a complete album, but shows Shame could be destined for greatness. Like a rebuilding sports team, it has rising superstars, brilliant moments and an unwavering mission and purpose. If they can continue growing and progressing, their next album should be one of the greats. No pressure.