Shame seems to have captured some buzz. They’ve had several clips in big UK publications and their debut was issued on Dead Oceans here in the States. The band plays forceful and somewhat haunting punk that’s brutal and harsh, but with heart and authentic emotion that seeps throughout the tough-on-the-surface songs. Sure the band screams out descriptive lyrics like “bathe me in blood” (in “The Lick”) but those pained shouts are countered by a more reflective stream-of-thought counter vocal that’s soothing and grounded. The anger booms, but it’s tempered and contained without being restrained.
That balance between the primal energy of punk and the more sophisticated ability to reign it in stretches across the record, which seems to put it in the post-punk realm according to the majority of articles I’ve been looking at trying to articulate it. Songs like “Tasteless” show this exploration, representing the age we live in and its penchant for salacious headlines while showing that lowest common denominator may overshadow but it doesn’t always win.
While most of Songs of Praise alternates between the two distinct vocal deliveries by singer Charlie Steen: one deep, soothing and narrative, the other scratchy and brutal shouts. There’s a pretty even mix of more straightforward punchy punk rock balanced by those tempered songs that scratch at more complex emotions. The songs are forceful, somewhat remorseful, and with a steady balance between anger and melody, but standing on a wider foundation than the traditional power chords. Throughout the record, the bass lines are a steady, upfront presence to calm the waters in between vocal outbursts that are punctuated with plotting, angular guitars. The band cites The Fall as an influence, and it shows throughout the record.
This is a difficult record to sum up because there’s real depth to the sound. It has the ambition of Fucked Up without the indulgence, the directness of 1980’s Touch & Go, and the explorative nature of post-punk. On first listen the band hits with their 1-2 punch, but repeated plays reveal a more complex tone where the songwriters have an understanding of their world and the self-control to contain it as they teeter on the edge. There’s a delicate balance between anger, frustration, cynicism, and hope. The bass-forward mix brings a haunting element that’s countered by the higher tones of the guitar. While most of the songs are concise and fall in the three-to-four minute range, “Angie” closes out the record with a …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead melodrama that suggests a new chapter is on the horizon. In many ways, Songs of Praise captures the desperate state of 2018. It’s angry as hell, but there’s enough compassion to see through the surface.
8.0 / 10
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