“Songs of Praise” by Shame – Review
Review by John Wright
Spare a thought for the modern British band. The tides of pop music in the 20th century saw a whole run of bands from all over jolly old England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland rise from total obscurity to become massive international celebrities. Their status as icons forever changed the course of our culture, giving the idea of “the next great British band” an unmatched pedigree. But with an unmatched pedigree comes unmatched expectations, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not at least a little detrimental for every “next big thing” to be measured up against the cultural footprint of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones before they’ve even cut their first album.
The South London post-punk outfit Shame takes a rather novel approach to this problem on their debut Songs of Praise: open confrontation. While other bands legislate the questions of influence and originality inherent to modern rock music through soul-deadening charm offensives in the music press, Shame choose to make their statement of intent loud and clear in the music itself. “My nails ain’t manicured/My voice ain’t the best you heard/and you can choose to hate my words/but do I give a f*ck?” sings frontman Charlie Steen on “One Rizla,” making it clear that Shame aren’t here for anyone’s satisfaction but their own. The members of Shame aren’t rock gods, trailing legions of adoring fans up and down the block; they acknowledge their position as a cog in the machine of the music industrial complex, and Steen’s cutting lyricism celebrates their insecurity and humanity. In this sentiment, they could be considered less the heirs to The Beatles and than to the grimy, working class rage of The Fall, whose legendary frontman Mark E. Smith left us earlier this year.
Perhaps, then, it’s fitting that Shame have debuted this year, as the next generation of angry, dirty post-punk can slide into place to fill the void left by those who have gone before. Over the artfully concise, or as Steen himself put it, “no bullshit” 39 minute runtime of Songs of Praise, Shame present themselves as a mature, cohesive outfit with a lot to say, and I’m on board for as long as they keep talking.
You can catch John from Noon to 2PM on Fridays as he hosts the Post-Punk Roc Bloc on WPTS Radio and follow him on Twitter @Wright_JohnP. This review was edited by Sean Bailey of the WPTS Editorial Board.