Ever since Punk came on the English scene, it was never characterised by particularly good-looking groups (although The Smiths may be fronted by the charismatic Morrissey). It was about making rock ‘n’ roll filthy again; its edge lost to the degeneracy of glam rock and other watered-down, über-polished forms. In England, it was your average Joe, picking up a guitar and belting out a few chords, his mate yelling into the microphone, and voila! you had the foundation for a band. The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned, all characterised by alternative fashion, no fashion, or suits; without makeup (or obscene amounts of makeup, but not glam rock’s application of); pure energy, a anarchism and nihilism of Thatcher-era England. Sounds tumultuous, yet much of this sounds fairly tame to our ears.
Then came Grunge, Hardcore and Post-Punk. Post-Punk expanded the sound scape of punk, and added some sophistication. Now the guitar players could add lead lines awash with endless delay and reverb. Joy Division claims responsibility, by adding more haunting introspection, increased energy in their drumming (hit hats, much?) and sophistication amidst their everyday English-ness. New Order and The Smiths followed suit. Now in 2018 comes Shame, English rockers with ‘Songs of Praise’, possibly the best Post-Punk record in many years.
A trip down the memory lane of the punk movement makes sense to see where South London rocks, Shame, fit in. Whilst great Post-Punk bands have been around (At the Drive-In, mewithoutYou), something distinctly British has not surfaced in quite a while.
Opener, ‘Dust on Trial’, has brooding vocals and a driven twin-guitar attack. Second track ‘Concrete’ exposes the more English nature of their influences, channeling The Clash amongst others. ‘One Rizla’ opens with a head-banging, driving drum and bass with catchy guitar line, and chorus claiming: ‘I’m not much to look at/I’m not much to hear/But if you think I love you/You’ve got the wrong idea.‘ ‘One Rizla’ is one of the best Post-Punk songs in years, given that within it you can hear the mix of the old British Punk sensibilities mixed with Post-Rock. ‘The Lick’ follows a sleazy vocal delivery during the verse and an Oasis-esque chorus. ‘Angie’, the closer, is the slowest and longest song on the record and a nice way to close an album with something slower and more ballad-like (and a return to the Oasis-vibe).
Thankfully ‘Songs of Praise’ never sinks into mimicry, but is a refreshing mix of the old and the new in a seamless blend. With a few tracks worth skipping over (‘Gold Hole’, ‘Lampoon’) ‘Songs of Praise’ keeps the momentum and pulse without sounding repetitive (which is a hard thing to do in the genre as you may have half a good album before moving on).
A mixture of what came before and what we’re doing now, Shame’s debut album is definitely worth a geez, especially if you mix rough English accents in your rock.
Are there enough songs to praise here? I certainly think so.
Nothing to be ashamed about.