After conquering the global post-punk scene with their debut album, Songs of Praise, in 2018, and then releasing its critically-acclaimed follow-up, Drunk Tank Pink, in 2021, London band Shame were back last week with their third album, Food for Worms, on American label Dead Oceans.
Right away I was struck by the cover art—an eye-catching and surreal portrait of several people in polka-dotted onesies swimming under the stars painted by world-renown visual artist, Marcel Dzama— that very well suits the the emotional and sonic depth I was about to expereince. The first track, “Fingers of Steel,” starts with a distant and reverb-drenched piano melody that screams late 2000’s indie-rock, but it soon turns into a more classic Shame sound: busy drums, driving basslines, stereo guitars working with and against each other and the usual shouted back-vocals behind frontman Charlie Steen’s snarky half-spoken singing.
Soon after, the songs evolve into something quite different, integrating multiple influences you’d usually not think would work together, such as folk-rock, art-punk, britpop and post-rock. Think Wire’s Chairs Missing meets Neil Young’s On the Beach with a bit of Slint’s Spiderland.
On one side, songs like “Yankees,” “Adderall,” “Orchid” and “All of the People” have a singer-songwriter feel to them; bittersweet ballads with poignant choruses and more elaborate vocal harmonies. On the other side, “Six-Pack,” “Alibis,” “The Fall of Paul” and “Different Person” are able to retain the vigorous energy found in the previous records.
This album feels like a Sunday morning at the break of dawn, when the excitement of the night before comes down and hits you, this moment of sheer vulnerability in which you can put your heart on your sleeve and be brutally honest with your loved ones, tell them the hard truths or admit to past wrongdoings, but most of all, it feels like the result of the kind of trust and love you can only have with your oldest and closest friends.