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.
Inspired by the travelling circus of touring 2018 debut ‘Songs of Praise’, then the stark mundaneness that followed, ‘DTP’ itches with frustration, realised via an instrumental arsenal that includes percussion, piano, and synths. ‘Born In Luton’ is a swaggering funk-tinged cavalcade - think Talking Heads with anger management issues - ‘March Day’ is a highlight, cokey and carnivalesque, while ‘Human For a Minute’, which was given the odd live outing on the ‘…Praise’ tour is dressed entirely differently to its former upbeat arrangement, Josh Finerty’s hefty bass groove helping to make it one of the band’s best cuts to date.
Where the album lacks is its lyrics. Half-punk half-poet, Charlie Steen has proved himself a witty narrator before, but for all the snappy choice phrases he dishes out on these songs seemingly as they come to him, there’s little substance. Take ‘Station Wagon’, the slow-building end track that reads like the monologue of some tripped-out soul you’d find slumped in the corner at a party. It pales in comparison to the beautiful balladry of ‘Angie’ on ‘…Praise’, and ends an otherwise eclectic collection blandly.
Nevertheless, the urgency of ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ is contagious. It’s like the boys can’t get this music out of their bodies quick enough - the latter half of the record segues together without pausing to come up for air - and you can bet your bottom dollar that once ‘all this’ has blown over and live music returns, these tracks will come into their own. Until then, crank up the volume and stomp around your prison cell.
Records & Merch
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Recorded at Brixton Electric.
When the perma-party around their breakthrough debut stopped, Shame had to look inwards and work out their next steps. In ‘Drunk Tank Pink’, however, they’ve turned them into massive strides forward.