Recorded in France “before the world imploded,” shame’s sophomore LP is named after the shade of paint that decorates frontman Charlie Steen’s closet at home – Drunk Tank Pink. Guitarist Eddie Green revealed on the podcast What a Great Punk, “we recorded it back in January (2020)…and the plan was to put it out a lot earlier.” The South London group made the decision to push back the release due to the Covid-19 pandemic which put a pin in the big year of touring the band had planned. Instead they were stopped in their tracks, but Green, (who spent much of the year isolating at his mum and dad’s house), put a positive spin on things, raving about his parent’s “very well stocked fridge”. But while the touring may be limited, early responses to the record suggest that 2021 is going to be a huge year for shame.
“Born In Luton” is perhaps the greatest exhibit of growth on Drunk Tank Pink. It’s polished, yet innovative and by no means ‘safe’. Imagine your Nan waving frantically at you while you reverse out of her driveway, but she’s wearing a Sex Pistols t-shirt, heavy eyeliner and a pair of Doc Martins – that’s what the guitar riff sounds like in the verses. But then the song sedates itself to a slower tempo and becomes vulnerable and intimate. Charlie Steen manages to present so much emotion from monotonous vocals that deliver sincerity, “I’ve been waiting outside for all of my life/And now I’ve got to the door, there’s no one inside,” commenting on the personal struggles that came with the success of the band. Bass player Josh Finerty revealed that the majority of the album chronicles the last two years of the band’s life, where they toured to “the point of almost breaking.” But despite the melancholy theme, I dare you to listen to the track and not bob your head when the kick drum ushers the main riff back in at 2:06.
This record is great, but the percussion is terrific. Charlie Forbes offers drums, egg shakers and tambourines that keeps each track as fresh as Old Spice. “Water in the Well” is a percussive highlight with chaos in it’s eyes. If you feel like getting in a bit of a playful mood, this is the track to listen to. The guitar is quite simple but “Water in the Well” nails the most important part of any song (the backing vocals) and you can tell Steen is having fun with the vocals, playing around with tone and delivery.
The final single from the album, “Nigel Hitter” came accompanied by an eerily psychological music video. Directed by Maxim Kelly, the black and white video features archived footage of children’s development taken from research centres. The video manipulates the footage using deep fake technology to create the appearance that the children are lip synching along with the vocals, with the band making cameos as (quite convincing) charismatic scientists.
“Nigel Hitter” is something of a science experiment itself. Percussion acts as the ‘control’ of the track. Egg shaker shimmies from start to finish, adding stability to a bass line and riff that are refreshingly out of sync. It’s one of those tracks that has an incredibly catchy hook but also unique layers of guitar, bass and unexpected drum sequences that will captivate you every time you press play.
Comparisons have already been drawn to British legends Gang of Four and even Talking Heads, yet this record is unmistakably shame. Steen confidently delivers insouciant vocals, forming a polished sound with inventive flair, but exhibiting obvious growth from the group’s first album. Still, Drunk Tank Pink produces an atmosphere of teenage punk which will be a point of affection if you’re a fan of shame’s debut record.