Shame have rediscovered their excitement for life with their third record Food for Worms.
Perhaps the “worms” in this case are their loyal fanbase, in which case they won’t be able to get enough of this tasty banquet. The band have had quite the weight on their shoulders all the way through their young careers, basically defining the UK post-punk scene alongside powerhouses like IDLES. However, label these young punks at your peril as Food for Worms is unexpectedly sweet in the most refreshing way.
From the beginning this album comes out swinging with a determined, aggressive energy. The opener ‘Fingers Of Steel’, previously released as a single in 2022, is optimistic and with its catchy guitar riffs, it gives us that feeling of familiarity while remaining absolutely original in its essence. This would prove to be the tone for the album as a whole. You have my attention, Shame, please proceed.
Shame once again capture those warm nostalgic feelings with second single and second track, ‘Six-Pack’. It takes strong influence from late 90s Britpop, resembling Ocean Colour Scene’s ‘Hundred Mile City’ in the best way. The 90s-inspired guitar tone and upbeat rhythm section that rings through this record gives it such a warm and bright feel, while Steen’s lyrics don’t always follow that theme. ‘Orchid’, a real stand-out album track, gives us a great example of this, with a pinch of a Radiohead Bends era influence. The uplifting and groovy guitar riffs here are something that this album’s predecessor, and perhaps modern day post-punk in general, was missing.
I’m forever falling for music that just sounds like it was fun to write and record, and tracks like ‘Burning By Design’ and ‘Fingers Of Steel’ encapsulate that. Food for Worms is all about a band doing what they do because they want to, not because they’re contractually obliged to. For a third album this can be rare, however this is testament to a group of musicians who have clearly grown together as a strong unit. The slightly more commercial element of this album sets it aside from Drunk Tank Pink (2021) and allows it to sit more comfortably alongside the debut, Songs of Praise (2018).
A step in the more melodic songwriting direction will be a welcome one for Shame fans, as it suits them so well. This is replicated in the production style too, as the guitars are not always so distorted in the way we are used to in this genre. Perhaps leaning heavier into this style would have revealed some more clear-cut anthems, similar to their breakout tunes, ‘Concrete’ and ‘One Rizla’ all those years ago when the band first arrived on everyone’s radar. Sticking with the album’s production style, there is so much going on musically on these tracks that this record may require a few listens to fully appreciate the lyrics which can drift into the background at times. This is not necessarily a negative point, but simply depends on the listener’s taste.
Food For Worms demands to shake off its genre yet it serves as an example for what the future of post-punk could sound like. Despite what Charlie Steen’s lyrics may suggest, this record is full of confident angst and contains more than a couple of bangers that could serve as your soundtrack for striding up and down town. The record finishes expertly with the loveliest ballad about friendship in ‘All The People’.
Here, with some expert songwriting, Shame remind us that they are truly one of the shining beacons of the UK alternative scene.