Release Date: Jan 15, 2021
Record label: Dead Oceans
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Having lived through, and at times contributed to, a time when the use of 'angular' to describe music hit saturation point, thinking of applying it now does cause a certain gag reflex to be invoked. And yet, it is hard to get past angular as a singular noun for assigning to Shame‘s second album Drunk Tank Pink. It is angular. It is full of angles.
Shame already displayed plenty of ambition and a penchant for drama on Songs of Praise, but they're twice as potent on Drunk Tank Pink. Though it's named for the color used to subdue violently inebriated prisoners, there's little soothing about the band's second album; in fact, by comparison, their debut sounds almost staid. Following Songs of Praise's success, Shame found new ways to tear things up.
Colour theory nerds might recognise 'Drunk Tank Pink' as the name of a shade psychologists once used in prison cells to calm violent inmates. If Shame are the inmates in this scenario, it hasn't worked. These eleven tracks are beefier, more confrontational, more dissonant than before, and all the better for it, Charlie Steen's primal taunting on the in-your-face opener 'Alphabet' a fitting introduction to the ride ahead.
This is a gentler, more introspective Shame - gone are the raucous frustrations of 'Songs Of Praise', leading way for a pensive, delicate new wave of punk. 'Drunk Tank Pink' is a surreal landscape of desperation, frustration, and consideration, and a confident second record from the South Londoners. Although a portion of the record has a gentle tone, 'Water In The Well' is perhaps the key exception to the rule, with its heavy, brooding guitars and frontman Charlie Steen's almost despairing howls - there is a frenetic energy here, juxtaposing the themes of loss, escaping, and hiding.
Drunk-tank pink is the shade of pacification. Meant to neutralize hostility and placate violence, the color was originally developed for a naval correctional institute in 1979, and when studies appeared to confirm its calming effects, the bubblegum hue was splashed across prison cells, psychiatric wards, and of course, drunk tanks. South London loudmouths Shame seem immune to its powers.
A natural impulse for rock bands coming off their debut is to go bigger on the second album. That way at least you can't blame a lack of ambition if a sophomore slump occurs. Sometimes, though, it pays off to rein it in a little bit—take Interpol, or Pearl Jam. South London crew Shame signal such a streamlining right away on Drunk Tank Pink .
In the world of Shame's Drunk Tank Pink, perception is everything. Opener "Alphabet" kicks off with rattling snare and lurching rhythms from drummer Charlie Forbes and bassist Josh Finerty. Guitarists Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green pepper the empty space with scattershot sustain and siren wail leads. Grinding against this hypnotic lockstep, Charlie Steen shouts out sardonic observations drawn from urban anthropology.
The Lowdown: The lads are back in town. After a couple years of relentless touring to promote their impressive 2018 debut, Songs of Praise, South London post-punkers Shame returned home to decompress and figure out what came next. The result, inspired by raucous nights out, existential 21st century desperation, and hours spent prodding at humanity's own tender throbbing core in a tiny room painted soft pink, is their sophomore album, Drunk Tank Pink.
It must be unusual for anyone to release an album precisely a year after it was recorded to a world completely different to that in which the music was initially conceived. For Shame, that's precisely the circumstances they're met with as they unleash Drunk Tank Pink, the much anticipated follow-up to their widely acclaimed 2018 debut, Songs of Praise. Finished in January 2020, the London-based post-punk quintet emerged from La Frette Studio in France with a body of work blisffully unaware of what was to take hold of the world for the proceeding twelve months.
Drunk Tank Pink by shame Shame's new album Drunk Tank Pink opens with the breakneck one–two of "Alphabet" and "Nigel Hitter," then abruptly grinds to a halt after the frantic first minute of "Born in Luton. " Into this opening, vocalist Charlie Steen unfurls a devastating couplet: "I've been waiting outside for all of my life / And now I've got to the door, there's no one inside. " All the bravado is overturned and the vulnerability is laid bare: "When are you coming back? When are you coming home?" The song's Morse code guitars sound even more like a panic attack once you tune into the words skating over the song's fearsome churn.