Shame have long since earned a reputation as one of the most exciting, visceral, feral live experiences in the country. The South London wrecking crew’s live shows boast an incredible intensity, a sense of risk, of daring, a feeling that this could all end, all collapse within seconds – but, somehow, it doesn’t.
Replicating that on record was always going to be a difficult feat, so let’s get this out of the way first: They’ve completely blown the competition out of the water, producing one of the most thrilling, intoxicating, ludicrously entertaining British guitar records in an age.
‘Dust On Trial’ is the perfect opener, a poised, preening introduction rooted in that devil-may-care riff and Charlie Steen’s roaring, belching vocal. Every line feels like a mini-manifesto, screamed from someone used to be kicked out to the sidelines. Shame grab their revenge in fine style, ‘One Rizla’ aching with defiance as Steen shouts: “You can choose to hate my words… but do I give a fuck?”
Recorded in just 10 days in Welsh base Rockfield Studios, the intensity of those sessions leads to a thrilling, at times overwhelming experience. Production duo Local Hero – noted more for their association with electronic music, it has to be pointed out – lend each track a freshness, a feeling that this is all unfolding for the very first time.
But virginal is hardly a verb that could be tossed into their pathway. ‘The Lick’ opens with a visit to the gynaecologist, as “the stale smell of silicon clung to the wall”, and the sheer raunch, the physicality of Shame’s sound hints at outright debauchery and deviant behaviour in the sweat-pits of the night.
‘Songs Of Praise’ is a record that revels in revulsion, in delivering dirty, nasty rotten little thrills. ‘Donk’ is a 100 second guitar ejaculation, while ‘Lampoon’ is a Ramones-esque chugger that delights in double entendres.
It would be wrong to paint Shame as class clowns, though; lyrically and musically this cuts deeper than most, with the band’s political beliefs worn firmly on their sleeves. There’s a sense throughout of upending the norm, a group of young people shunted to the sidelines who yearn – if only briefly – to seize control of the stage, to rip down the curtains and show things as they really are.
‘Friction’ is one of the album’s most resolute achievements, and it asks one of Shame’s most daring questions: “In a time of such injustice how can you not want to be heard?”
In context and execution, ‘Songs Of Praise’ is one of the most daring, scorching, seethingly intelligent, and at times downright funny British guitar albums to come our way in years.
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