Our pick of the week's new releases is the brilliant, eccentric, expansive third record from South London's Shame
At this point, Shame don’t need to impress anyone. From unofficial house band of South London’s best small venue to cult heroes to the rapturous love of music critics, the quartet have always played like their lives depended on it. There’s been a sense the whole way along that they weren’t satisfied unless everyone in the room was a part of the same, sweaty, messy entity. If you’re not on board by now, that’s probably on you.
So when Shame say they weren’t happy with how their third full-length was panning out, you’d better believe them. Treading water just doesn’t seem an option and there was a definite sense that Drunk Tank Pink had taken them as far into post-punk as they were willing to go. So blow away the labels and what’s left? Freedom. Boundless possibilities. Shame sound liberated and engaged here, like how clean and free the air feels when your blocked nose suddenly clears.
Food For Worms will go down in rock folklore first because of its genesis. With the band thoroughly blocked and frustrated, their manager set them a challenge. A gig was in the diary, booked under an alias. The band couldn’t play any old material. They had three weeks to write an entire set. Holed up in a room, they thrashed out Food For Worms within the designated time, proving that nothing gets you moving like your arse being on fire.
That origin story would suggest a raw, ragged album; Food For Worms is anything but. Instead, the band’s live in the studio approach lends an immediacy and warmth that accentuates their indisputable songwriting chops. A song like the Phoebe Bridgers-featuring ‘Adderall’ could have been pored over and over-produced, but here its dynamism feels more like a band moving as one, rather than anything precision engineered.
There’s a horrible temptation to use the word “mature”, but it’s not quite that either. Yes, there are slower, more considered songs than their previous two efforts, but there’s also the unbridled pummelling of ‘Six-Pack’. Shame have always explored deeper, more dramatic territory than most of their peers, but Food For Worms feels like the first time they’ve dived headfirst into it. The recurring theme of friendship is far more earnest and heartfelt on songs like the stunning ‘Fingers Of Steel’ than anything most of the detached post-irony crowd would even consider.
When most scenes run their course (think grunge, Britpop), the glut of bands that clogged the airwaves dissipates and only the truly great remain. When we finally bore of this new wave of post-punk, not only will Shame still be standing, we’ll wonder why we ever called them post-punk in the first place.