“A lot of indie bands are more interested in selling records and don’t want to divide opinions”, said Shame frontman Charlie Steen in one of the band’s first interviews in 2016. The raucous four-piece are probably going to end up selling a considerable amount of records, following a fast-paced rise which has taken in Radio 1 play, national tours – they have a big run of dates coming up in April – and an increasingly loyal following, but they have created a debut which will certainly leave opinion divided.
As a thundering riff and brooding, low pitched vocals give way to a shouted chorus and thrashing instrumentation on album opener ‘Dust on Trial’, which stops and starts at the whim of the band members, it is clear that Shame mean business with a heavier, uncompromising twist on alternative guitar music. It is followed by the similarly angst-ridden ‘Concrete’, underpinned by smooth guitar lines and the desperate refrain of “No more!” For the most part, this is a furiously energetic record and a product of its deeply troubled time.
‘One Rizla’, which has previously been released as a single and got the band noticed internationally, goes down a more festival and radio friendly route through slicker production and softer vocals. On first listen it is the most polished track here and shows that Shame can turn their hand to more than the heavier material that makes up much of the record.
There are a considerable range of influences on display in ‘Songs of Praise’, from yelled hooks reminiscent of Slaves to instrumentation that wouldn’t sound out of place in the grunge scene. While the album starts to lag towards the end, with little to distinguish ‘Donk’ from the tracks that have gone before it, the album feels cohesive in its menacing nature and politically charged lyrics, while the band’s musical ability is never in doubt.
This is a solid and, as promised, divisive debut from a band that stands out compared to the softer, more commercial sounds currently dominating the British alternative scene. Taking more of their cues from punk and hard rock, Shame show on ‘Songs of Praise’ that they have a considerable amount of promise. If they refine their sound further, mix things up a bit, and take a few more risks in their music, the results could be heavenly.