I made my mind up about Shame a long time ago, cementing my opinion of the London quintet after seeing them live in Leicester for Handmade Festival.. My initial reaction was: "They're from London?", because Songs of Praise does not sound like it's coming out of London.. in 2018. Shame, alike many modern post-punk musicians, evoke a sense of Manchester. Be it (I only ever use this ironically but for this case i'm deadly serious,) swagger, be it a kind of natural musical flavour, somewhat stark in The Durutti Column aesthetic - Shame seemingly remind me of post-punks heyday in the early 80s. This is no coincidence, the quintet know exactly what they're doing.
Returning back to London circa 2010s, i'd like to remind the reader of many successful (in the musical quality sense,) post punkers. The direct equivalent would be Savages, and... yeah I haven't really been paying attention to 'new' music in the past two-three years so I can't actually pretend to know what i'm talking about with so called new post-punk. Though I'm a firm believer in the constant. By that I mean legacy, and how well music stands against time. From the moment a song touches my ears it can linger till I eventually pass, and the music that sticks around, the music I personally go back to, passes my own internal judge of time. Post-punk as a genre lingers, it can be in the minority of music, hell, the minority of rock music, but it will always be a part of my listening habits since the very first time I heard This Nation's Saving Grace.
History repeats itself on Songs of Praise, "The Lick" being a prime example of Shame's imitation. Spoken word rock songs didn't begin with Cribs' "Be Safe" or Galaxie 500s "Fourth of July" (any opportunity to write about Galaxie 500, I take it.) "The Lick" is straight out of the Cale / Reed’s VU songbook. The genius' that are Cale/Reed elevated their creativity on White Light / White Heat's "The Gift". Shame emulate Cale's flat story with a modern twang: "Sit in the corner of your room and download the next greatest track to your MP3 device so sincerely recommended to you by the New Musical Express." It's a stark reminder to you (the readers,) to take things we (the writers,) say with a pinch of salt. And of course they nail their emulation on the head story wise: "This is how it starts" / "This is how it ends," like clockwork.
Never underestimate the power of reality within punk lyricism. It's often disregarded for the angsty trash it sometimes is, but, and its a huge but, certain lyricists can pull off a lesson in ethics and self-reflection: "Sodomy had a place in the past but now it's fashionable," a perfect example on the mind bending "Tasteless". A song so bashful, it becomes somewhat soothing (insert abuse comment here.) In all seriousness, Shame have no actual seriousness. "Tasteless" being a big fuck you to hive-mind, "The Lick" telling you to really stop caring what people think of you, at least that's what I take from it.
Shame's lyrics, like many punk bands before them, engage the listener emotively - something you can typically associate with punk music. I don't think they're as pigeonholed as they believe, this sound can be widely distributed and classified by the world over as punk, post-punk, post-rock in some senses, it's just in America where Shame will be branded as British like it's an actual musical subset. Songs of Praise is correctly eased politically, focusing primarily on societal hinges, than the heavily divisive polrock which has gripped many punk oriented UK bands. This is where Shame's Songs of Praise becomes a true contender for my lingering age test. Few can do it in the 2010s, Idles being a prime example of polrocks attention-seeking UK-based twattery - and that's no reflection of Brutalism, which was one of the grittiest albums of 2017, and aptly one of the best. Shame simply walk the social line, akin to many of Mark E. Smith’s personal and philosophical lyrics.. without the manc-based twattery. "Friction" hitting the nail on the head, slow paced, angry vocals attached to ethical dilemmas - a beautifully crafted concept repeated throughout Songs of Praise, an album I believe will linger high in Shame’s discography for years to come.
I typically ignore other reviews till I've finished my own writing, but as an older, wrong side of 20 listener, I grabbed a few links and scoured the web to dig up the opinions of others. I might even make this a recurring thing... Like a morning radio presenter going through and picking apart the days newspapers.
NME recognise the lyrical talent, picking up on "Friction" and it's peak on Songs of Praise, something I would agree with had "The Lick" not made it's way on to my Spotify list last year. The Financial Times seem to focus on fuck all other than making fancy words like "pustulant" a cover for what writer Ludovic Hunter-Tilney really means - above average, a six. The Cavalier Daily (the University of Virginia's student operated independent newspaper) summed up everything I mean, but in a professional and concise manner: "Ultimately, the album is all about energy, atmosphere and being in a moment. It’s this combination of ideals that makes for a compelling listen," So congratulations UoV for blowing UK reviewers out of the water.
Pitchfork chipped in unexpectedly: "motorik riffs course through you the way a vat of dirty water journeys from a grimy cistern into an overrun toilet bowl," now that's quality writing. However, P4K writers tend to forget they're reviewing music: "Does 2018 call for more white male aggression? No." Yeah, because reviewing a moderate London centric post-punk band is exactly the time to bring up the kind of identity politics discussion you find amongst sociology educated with a minor in EngLit barista working Americans. Again: "in their fight to distinguish themselves from every other white male British guitar band,” which is an incredibly distasteful thing to say about Shame, and post punk in general. I have very rarely focused on demographics when it comes down to an artists background, it's just not needed unless there's a clear exception to the norm. How often do you see reviewers writing 'Cardi B's fight to distinguish herself from every other black female American rap artist', this doesn't happen for a reason Pitchfork. This is why The Fall's Hex Enduction Hour is considered a classic, and White Lies' Ritual is widely considered boring.