Exactly three years removed from the release of debut LP Songs of Praise, shame return as one of the most hyped bands of the late ’10s post-punk revival. Drunk Tank Pink shrewdly enlists the nous of renowned UK producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals) to oversee another extremely solid helping of stomping post-hardcore guitar anthems, while there are subtle developments within these 11 tracks that dispel any concerns of a sophomore slump for the young South London quintet.
shame cleverly deliver a record of two halves here, dividing Drunk Tank Pink into an arresting five-track introduction of riff heavy, single-ready material before diving deep into an onslaught of denser, more complex post-punk in the latter stages of the record. You’d be forgiven for being fooled by the sticky hooks of 2020 singles ‘Alphabet’ and ‘Water in the Well’ as well as standout cuts ‘Nigel Hitter’ and ‘Born in Luton’ early doors, but make no mistake—this is a darker album than its predecessor, delivered with a heightened level of intensity and aggression by its creators.
Atmospheric centerpiece ‘Snow Day’ begins the album’s descent into harsher territory before the speedy one-two punch of ‘Great Dog’ and ‘6/1’ step up the volume with short, sharp blasts of grunge and new wave respectively (guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith says he listened to Talking Heads religiously while writing the album, and it shows), but it is undoubtedly a case of saving the best for last as the final moments of ‘Station Wagon’ see the record peak all the way to its last note.
The explosive, face-melting climax of Drunk Tank Pink‘s closer stands as shame’s finest moment to date, and when the door has closed on this particular generation of post-punk, ‘Station Wagon’ could very well be counted among this era’s defining tracks alongside Fontaines‘ ‘I Don’t Belong’ and IDLES’ ‘Model Village’.
The difficulty with being an artist so firmly embedded in one of the most prolific indie music scenes in the industry at the moment is having the ability to sidestep contemporaries like Fontaines D.C. and IDLES in order to deliver a work of original substance and, in truth, Drunk Tank Pink does lack for individuality at times.
There is an ever so slightly grating effect in vocalist Charlie Steen’s penchant for shout singing his way through every track, a puzzling habit that seems ever more maddeningly popular among this current crop of bands, and while Steen doesn’t approach the brazenly monotonous levels of Joe Talbot, there is a very real need for him to learn to reel it in at times, especially on lighter fare.
Still, Drunk Tank Pink mostly delivers on the promise of Songs of Praise, quashing any fears of the one album wonder and confirming shame as one of the UK’s brightest young rock bands. On its heaviest moments, shame’s second album puts forth a case for its subjects to develop into a compelling punk band if Steen & co. can follow their best instincts and transcend a scene which can only offer them so much in years to come.