shame – ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ | Album Review


shame’s new album Drunk Tank Pink is out now via Dead Oceans.

The south-London post-punk outfit shame‘s sophomore album follows in the tradition of late 70s club-punk sound, bursting with rhythmic melodrama.

Each song is a tour of chaotic nostalgia, hammered through Charlie Steen’s vocals that rasp of Johnny Rotten and Robert Smith in every bass breath.

While this album will be nothing novel in the Brit-punk catalogue, on repeat listens I felt the legacy of our old favorites finding a new home in this decade of Instagram influencers and cancel culture.

I was immediately taken with the opening drums and thrums of ‘Alphabet,’ before unexpectedly being confronted with Steen’s harsh voice. Steen has the ability to stalk behind you with his David Byrne belt until it unexpectedly catches you and makes you its prisoner. By the end of the song, I had fully succumbed to a vocals’ induced Stockholm Syndrome.

The album’s second track, ‘Nigel Hitter,’ continues to stretch its retro vibe as if looking to de-phunk the new wave vintage genre and re-funk the modern punk scene.

‘Born in Luton’ is akin to a Smashing Pumpkins slow-down that crescendos in a surprising way, twisting back into the song’s rampaged staccato before the guitar slowly bleeds out in a crumbling concrete fortress.

‘March Day’ is sheer fun with Clash-like instrumentals riffs. It’s classically psychedelic: Twiggy’s dancing in the corner, I’m popping pills, and I’m tripping over Campbell’s soup cans that are rolling along the floor for no good reason.

‘Water in the Well’ is the defining song of the album and will solidify shame’s cult following (which from everything I know about the band is likely shame’s preferred method of fandom).

‘Snow Day’ & ‘Station Wagon’ are what I call the Patti Smith songs; ratchet live accompaniment to poetry. They held my attention with delicate backing vocals and interesting tempo changes. In this way, shame stands apart from other bands who attempt similar styling that usually ends in a stagnant and faux-intellectual trap.

‘Human, for a Minute’ is a blood-thirsty and sensuous song that would have been a great addition to The Lost Boys soundtrack.

‘Great Dog’ gives us a Sex Pistol pump-up. I spent more time then I’d like to admit debating if this is an emotionally complex song or just a simple track about a good dog. I have a hunch shame actually feels great joy and a small sense of smug superiority at the over-analysis of songs such as this.

I did my best to not like ‘6/1’ because of an arrogance that pours through the lyrics but I fell hard for the upbeat Buzzcocks intro, steamy guitar, and its overall head-banging thrash mess.

‘Harsh Degrees’ rounds out the album with an arpeggio of malicious and obsessive love. 

Drunk Tank Pink can’t be quickly catalogued. It brings a vintage motif to help analyze the context of today’s politics and culture. shame provides listeners with a raw but resounding punk album with the whys and outrages of the world mixed with boyhood dreams. They continue the heritage of being young, punk, in love, in hate, with miles of values untested.

I’m in my late 20s and while I recognize that I’m young and have the world ahead of me, I have jumped from one bank of Mount Doom’s lava rivers of wanting so badly to be treated as an adult to the unforgiving safety of the other side that comes with coping with the harsh realities of adulthood. Drunk Tank Pink is a gothic-romp that is driven by shame currently straddling these molten banks.

As time becomes their master, I look forward to how shame’s music evolves when they stop seeing the righteous world in black and white and begin to see the shades of grey peeking through while still finding ways to maintain their core values. I wish them well on the journey. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Best of luck, boys.

shame’s drunk tank pink is available to buy now here

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Emma is a former (and sometimes) Democratic political operative. When not on a campaign, Emma is focused on writing timely pieces on culture, punk music, and spooky run-ins. After writing hours, Emma can be found mouthing off, watching baseball, and reading Stephen King. Emma is currently located in an antelope laden field in Wyoming.