Is it too early to say that one of the year’s best albums has arrived? Given 2018 is only 15 days old, it is likely the case, but Shame‘s debut LP, Songs of Praise, will not be immediately forgotten. For that matter, this post-punk titan of a record will long be remembered come December because, unlike so much music these days, it is fierce in its delivery and honesty. It is an album that is fearless yet provocative, intense yet absorbing, and whose sonic ferociousness is matched by front man Charlie Steen’s powerful and socially-driven songwriting.
It all begins immediately with the dark and twisted “Dust on Trial”, which musically is like the perfect blend of Metallica, Preoccupations, and A Place to Bury Strangers. Yet lyrically, Steen challenges the notions of fact vs. fiction and truth vs. fantasy. With fury in his voice, he hollers:
“And what’s the point of talking
If all your words have been said?
When the world can crumble,
And the soil is red?
A land of pure confusion
Known only to your wife,
Where satisfaction is devoured,
Cultivated and despised.”
Shame and Steen’s songwriting reach another level on the superb “Friction”, which is one of the year’s early standout tracks. Sounding like something out of a Marx’s Das Kapital, Steen lashes out a tirade against the elite and the oppressors of society. He asks sarcastically:
“Well, do you ever need the needy?
Do they ever tug on your hearts?
Or do you determine the person in question
Is simply worlds apart?”
Fury is further unleashed on the roaring “Tasteless” and “Lampoon”. The former is an anti-racism song that merges U2’s Edge-like delayed guitar strikes with the frenetic approach of early Eagulls. The latter is cathartic with its blazing guitars and hammering rhythms. Steen also offers a slight opening into his mind, as he reveals his own weaknesses. It is his social conscience rallying against himself. Even when Steen becomes a storyteller, like on the sinister affair “Gold Hole” and the slow-building, foreboding love tune “Angie”, he finds a way to speak out against the consumerism, selfishness, and insatiable thirst of greed. A jittery energy, meanwhile, rings through on the ’80s-inspired punk tune, “Concrete”, which surprises with its message of “hope”.
Then again, this positive message shouldn’t be startling because Shame have encountered it all. They’ve been bankrupt, slept in their tour van for months, received every insult imaginable, and overcome self-doubt. They remain standing, however, and they share their stories on the outstanding and euphoric “One Rizla”, which is filled with both optimism and vengeance. On the former, the band acknowledge the shit they’ve endured and how they got to where they are today by following their own rules. With respect to the latter, the song is a big middle finger to the former doubters who are now are running back to them. It is one of triumph, perseverance, and hope. Now, though, Shame get the last laugh with a debut album to be remembered. One to be celebrated as one of the most impressive debuts – and albums – to come out this decade.
Shame are Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, Sean Coyle-Smith, and Charlie Steen.
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