Shame‘s 2018 debut album Songs of Praise saw them proclaimed as one of the leaders of an ever-growing group of post-punk bands. It has felt like a long time coming, but shame’s second album Drunk Tank Pink is set for release 15 January 2021. This is still shame, but with their hearts on their sleeve. Drunk Tank Pink is a brutally honest album. Constant touring led to a need to reconnect with their own selves. Drunk Tank Pink lays bare all the band’s anxieties and insecurities but is still with a frenetic, manic, passionate energy that marks this firmly as a shame album.
The opener is “Alphabet”, the first single from the album. Straight into what we expect from shame. Brilliant guitar riffs and thrashing drums—perfect moshpit material. Very dancey and yet the lyrics suggest the feelings of outsiders, perhaps a feeling of imposter syndrome. “Now, what you see is what you get. I still don’t know the alphabet” “Don’t forget your P’s and Q’s. Just smile when we tell you too”. Introduced here is that sense of insecurity, but buried within the power and emotion of the track.
“Nigel Hitter” has a more spoken/shouty vocal style from frontman Charlie Steen, but with a funky, twangy guitar. The picture being painted is of trying to fit in but feeling uncomfortable, with lyrics such as “take the clothes off my back, they don’t seem to fit” and “pull the string on my girdle”. Mid-track there is a very definite shift of pace, which is prevalent in a few of the tracks on this album. Are shame feeling they need a minute to reset, before continuing? The chorus is a repetition of “it just goes on” over and over, the mundanity of routine.
“Born in Luton” and “March Day” build on the funky, if jerky, awkward Talking Heads-style guitars. Bassist Josh Finerty had begun to record the band’s divergent ideas at home in South London which was then fleshed out in a writing trip in the Scottish Highlands with electronic artist Makeness, before sessions in La Frette Studios in France with Arctic Monkeys producer James Ford. This is a top-notch production team, and it shows in the complexity of this album.
These tracks again have that shift of pace mid-song “I’ve been waiting outside for all of my life, and now I’ve got to the door there’s no-one inside”. Its as if they have been working so hard to be part of the gang, but having achieved the goal, shame have discovered it’s not what is necessarily required after all. Both tracks race along then abruptly slow down again, almost like they have been running around trying to do all the right things, and then eventually stop to consider—what now? “You become very aware of yourself, and when all of the music stops, you’re left with the silence,” reflects Charlie Steen. “And that silence is a lot of what this record is about.”
The second single “Water in the Well” retains the funky punky vibes, here with the brilliant backing vocals which complement Charlie’s lead.
“Snow Day” is the third single off the album, and it is quite different with a more thoughtful, measured guitar and drum beats. In contrast to the other songs on the album, there is a noise explosion in the middle, like an avalanche of sound.
It takes to track 7 “Human, for a Minute” to slow things down a little. The lyrics allude to a yearning for human connection, “Just for today, why don’t you stay, just for today”. This is even more poignant in light of the pandemic. Even though these lyrics were written as the band attempted to come back down to earth after touring for so long, the sense of human disconnection is one we can all relate to currently.
“Great Dog” is a 2-minute blast of the shame we know and love. The moshpit is gonna love this! Builds to crazy explosive energy…and stops dead before firing up again. This is the cheeky persona that Charlie exudes so well, winding us up and delivering the unexpected.
“6/1” is perhaps the trickiest track on the album. Anger and confusion evident here in a chorus of “I hate myself, I love myself”. Back to uncertainty about oneself, and it abruptly ends, which seems fitting with these lyrics.
“Harsh Degrees” is my favourite track on the album. It is simply a savage, incendiary, instantly lovable track. There is no midtrack break just 3 minutes 10 secs of pure adrenaline-driven exuberance. This shouts confidence from the rooftops. It’s a punk love-song, and the screeching reverb at the end rounds it off with perfection.
The last track on the album “Station Wagon” begins with an almost country twang. The longest track on Drunk Tank Pink at 6mins 35 seconds, it begins at a trotting pace. Clear slow vocals, this begins calm and composed. This time the mid-point has a beautiful keyboard section with Charlie telling us to look at the cloud, “and all is but a distant memory when I look up at it”. Our problems are put in perspective if we look up. This song is one of positivity as if the expression of anxieties in the previous songs have exorcised them. “There’s a new station wagon and it’s hitting the road”. This is the perfect track to close the album. It builds to the end, suggesting growth in confidence, and readiness for the future.
Shame began the journey to producing a second album feeling shell shocked from constant touring. To cope, guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith barricaded himself in his bedroom and obsessively deconstructed his very approach to playing and making music. Frontman Charlie Steen took a different approach and partied. The toll of life in the band had hit hard. The disintegration of his relationship, the loss of a sense of self and the growing identity crisis both the band and an entire generation were feeling. “When you’re exposed to all of that for the first time you think you’re f*cking indestructible,” he said. “After a few years, you reach a point where you realise everyone need a bath and a good night’s sleep sometimes.”
Charlie hid away to work on the lyrics in a room painted from floor to ceiling in the pink shade developed to calm down inmates in a US Naval correctional facility. The result is an album full of twists and turns, depth, emotion, and honesty; however, I am not sure the calming influence of the colour Drunk Tank Pink worked. Thank goodness…