If you’ve been around a few years you will remember a certain speech by a certain fake-yank-accented man by the name of Alex Turner, who when being awarded a trivial award, went on to proclaim that a new world order of “that rock and roll” would soon rise.
Little did he know he was talking about one band in particular from South London who would champion spit over swallow and be sure to change the game rather than play it. Shame are the saviours and Songs of Praise is the beginning of their rhetoric. Intro done.
Well, almost. The band are fiveschool friends (Charlie, Sean, Eddie, Charlie and Josh) who really made their name during their summer holiday. Instead of taking that gap yaaah, they instead pushed on towards The Queen’s Head (the infamous Brixton haunt of Fat White Family et al) and got grimey. They alongside many other reprobates “took refuge there” and expressed themselves. “You could do whatever you wanted there,” recalls Steen. “Nothing was off limits.”
It’s hard to speak about Shame without doing the South London music scene schtick, so here goes: Shame were born out of a rise in a DIY ethos around South London which saw many bands climb from depths of the capital. Alongside Shame are acts such as Goat Girl, HMLTD, Dead Pretties (RIP), Yowl and a few more to boot, who all cut their teeth on the South London toilet circuit, playing dives for dimes they bettered themselves and their art and released it onto us.
We are all reaping the benefits of that filthy incubator south of the river.
But now they’re nowhere near the toilet scene, and with their debut LP they’ve burst through the door and are firmly in the public conscious. And they’re doing a damn fine job of fucking it up as they go along. The debut album was always going to be highly anticipated – could they put their energy on to a full length record?
In a word? Yes.
Shame have managed to do that very tricky thing of feeling authentic, gritty and credible, all the while writing and recording efficiently, succinctly and ultimately delivering beyond the hype. With the first notes of opener ‘Dust On Trial’ you know that the ride will be bumpy but worth every lump on the head.
The LP continues to deliver with singles ‘Concrete’ (which is apparently “about someone who’s trapped in a relationship and they’re being pummelled into surrender”), and recent release ‘One Rizla’. And with every measured punk hit we are getting woozier and woozier, eyes swelling and nose flattened – Shame pull no punches as they follow with old favourites ‘Gold Hole’ and ‘The Lick’ given a new makeover to land with aplomb.
At 10 tracks and 39 minutes long it’s a compact round of undeniable work. “We wanted our first album to be concise and to the point,” says Charlie Steen. “No bullshit.”
What’s clear from Songs of Praise is that Shame have found their own little niche, they have organically grown a fanbase who truly love the band. They’ve done it by working hard, slogging through the bad gigs and making music that is unashamed and unabashed. Their attitude is one of defiance and their art is one of confrontation and connection, Shame are the new punk pioneers.
For the moment at least, because as we move through the tracklist there are subtle hints at genre-evolution such as ‘Friction’ and the 7 minute ‘Angie’ which both edge on the more melodic side, but still hold enough murky water to feel real.
In truth it’s a pretty perfect album for a band relatively new to the game. Their motives are clear and their expression is veracious to the point of vicious. The tracks are archetypal Shame, snarling and sultry without feeling showy – the band resonate honesty and authenticity with every garbled, razor-edged note.
Shame are the real deal and Songs of Praise has us all singing from the same hymn sheet.