shame: songs of praise
By Claudia Hockey
Snarky five-piece Shame have been steadily raising their profile since “The Lick / Gold Hole” dropped in late 2016, and have recently snagged accolades from NME, Q, and Pitchfork for last week’s debut LP “Songs of Praise”. They had already made a name for themselves in 2014 with “One Rizla”, written at The Queen's Head pub in Stockwell - a foster home for emerging talent made infamous by Fat White Family. “Songs of Praise” is a record that plays testament to that history; a gritty, sarcastic mess that draws together social commentary on everything from mental health to the “Friction” between London’s liberalism and Brexit.
South London guitar bands like Shame and INHEAVEN might seem as if they’re fighting a losing battle, their similarities to late 70s rock irreconcilable with an increasingly complacent society of technology addicts. That appears to be the opinion of most middle-aged commentators, anyway; quick to establish the fact that they’ve seen it all and that “post-punk” as a descriptor belongs solidly to their youth rather than skinny white millennials.
They might have a point, since “post-punk” generally implies a sense of excitement and youthful possibility that doesn’t often reconcile with 20-somethings today. Then again, the key strength of “Songs of Praise” is that it disregards arbitrary terms, consciously positioning itself outside any neat political ideology. That can feel disarming to listeners comfortable with pigeonholing people as either “antiquated Tory scum” or “young idealistic Lefties”, part of a wider trend simplifying the political landscape to one of “us vs. them”.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why the scathing post-Brexit single “Visa Vulture” was left out of this debut album in favour of “Tasteless”, which turns away from Theresa May and towards a British public that only pays attention to issues immediately relevant to themselves. Pairing “That’s racist” with “How tasteless” feels like a jab at call-out culture, but also at the unique ability of British society to take the moral high ground when it suits them. Racism might be distasteful now, but that wasn’t the case up until relatively recently. “Sodomy” might seem “fashionable”, but the fallout of Section 28 begs to differ. Long story short, it’s hard to start a revolution when the only people that truly care are the marginalized group in question.
The full weight of this album can’t be gained from a single track – gritty opener “Dust on Trial” takes inspiration from the likes of The Fall and Sonic Youth, but tragic love story “Angie” feels more similar to Oasis. That said, as a 20-year-old surrounded by skyrocketing rent and friends struggling with debt, “Gold Hole” stands out as being especially unnerving. Lines such as “She wants the money / It comes with his cream” are creepy, but also sadly more relevant to my generation than any Britpop alternative you could shove our way.
Fight the Power: