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Songs Of Praise The Quietus , January 15th, 2018 02:37

Boys in the band, but (hopefully) not those kind of boys in the band. By Cady Siregar.

At a recent gig, Shame’s lead singer Charlie Steen took off all his clothes and jumped straight into the crowd without missing a beat or taking a breath. It’s a pleasure to report that the reckless abandon of those live shows has transferred seamlessly onto on their debut album. Right from opener ‘Dust On Trial’, Steen is strenuous, breathless, volatile. On second track ‘Concrete’ the band really get going, and we’re immersed in the call-and-response of the vocals. On ‘One Rizla’ Steen truly shines as a feral frontman on top of an effervescent bassline and sweet guitars. ‘Tasteless’ is more rampant, full of throaty yowls and feverish, frothing-at-the mouth energy. On ‘Gold Hole’, guitars and drums and vocals spiral downwards into a hellish soundscape of noise anarchy.

Shame’s lawless live energy, their highly politicised songwriting and their merry-go-round of raucous hedonism on and off stage has perhaps inevitably drawn comparisons with Fat White Family - and Shame are part of the south London scene that spawned Fat Whites. But they have also helped revive the good old ‘Is guitar music dead?’ debate; Shame are, undeniably and perhaps frustratingly, all white men and that tired old debate seems only to include bands of white men. (There has at least been a bit of a drop-off in the number of generic Reading & Leeds headliners who graced every cover of the NME a couple of years ago - Catfish & The Bottlemen, with Peace, Swim Deep, Circa Waves and Slaves riding on their coattails, all floundering in a diminishing gene pool borrowed from bands such as The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys.)

Shame have just about managed to distance themselves from the indie landfill of recent yesteryear, and not just by making better music. After a fight broke out at a recent gig they said, “It was fucking stupid and it shouldn’t have happened… Shame gigs are a safe place, we might beat ourselves up on stage but that’s it.” This is a band of lads working to avoid an aggro, lagers-in-the-moshpit fanbase. We’ve yet to see if they succeed, but right now Songs Of Praise is an ambitious, ferocious debut from a band who might just have something new to say about being a (load of white men in a) guitar band.