Sunday, September 13, 2020

MEET: Shame

Shame's Charlie Steen says the band's relentless touring 'broke his mind' |  NME

Many music lovers might remember, at some point in time, cobbling together a bunch of mates who can play instruments, and messing about in any space they can find trying to create something that resembled music. Shame came from such a background. Each day, the five band members would hop off the school bus, head up the stairs of Brixton’s oldest pub, The Queen’s Head, and bash out sounds on their instruments, in the name of art and fun. 

The former birthplace of British post-punk legends, Fat White Family, would go on to mould the young lads into seasoned musicians by the time they started releasing their first singles, gifting them the energy but not the notorious harmful excesses of such older bands. Shame’s first singles were no amateur affairs. ‘Gold Hole’, a song that would later make it onto their debut album, demonstrated the gritty content of their lyrics, all delivered by furiously ecstatic guitars and frontman Charlie Steen’s raspy vocals. ‘Visa Vulture’ arrived not long after, directly ripping into Theresa May’s failed Brexit strategies through the disguise a hilarious yearning love song. 

Shame have never been afraid to hide their political opinions, becoming a voice for an increasingly disenfranchised, but fun-loving generation.

Visa Vulture video:

Signing to indie label Dead Oceans, Shame would go on to release critically acclaimed ‘Songs of Praise’, a debut that still sounds fresh two tumultuous years later. ‘Songs of Praise’ took a swipe at a prejudiced, often uncaring, British society, and a few bangers are packed in there too. What is most impressive, however, is hearing a debut without any duds, each song has its own character and feels vital to the record.

‘One Rizla’ could be seen as the band defining who they are. Steen sings of acceptance over his looks and talent, with the self-confidence of someone who believes totally in their message. The song emerges as a triumphant outcry – the soundtrack to a frustrated, dreary adolescence.

‘Tasteless’ holds a magnifying glass up to the indifference of society. Originally constructed from fragments of Steen’s notebooks, ‘Tasteless’ manages to tackle racism and division, with the parting line “I like you better when you’re not around” bellowed repeatedly into the void. The song holds up great live too.

Tasteless acoustic performance:

‘Angie’ proves the band has more to offer than straight forward guitar tunes, telling a tragic story of a love lost to suicide. The lyrics are graphic and personal, but incredibly powerful, with the song unfolding into a climax worthy of ending such a strong album. With a healthy amount of a solid songs under their belt already, the band are just about ready to release their second album, confirming that it had been recorded and mastered before Coronavirus put the music industry on hold. There have been tastes of new music in previous live sets – one notable standout ‘Human for a Minute’ shows the band evolving as songwriters, tackling heavier themes with confidence and skill.

A lot can be said for the live energy of Shame as well. Over the last few years, the band have established themselves as must-see performers, reaching top billing on many festival line- ups and embarking on plenty of domestic and international tours. Embodying the spirit of punk goes a long way for bands playing live, and it’s usually not long into their sets before the band can be seen thrashing their instruments, ripping off their shirts, and diving into mosh pits. 

To top it all off, Shame have consistently proven they are actually good musicians too. With three guitarists, they are at the forefront of the much talked about wave of new guitar-based bands keen to hone their musical skill as well as their stage presence. There are many examples of this, but this fantastic performance is perhaps one of the best.

La Blogotheque performance:

Despite many bands being forced to slow down or cease work all together in lockdown, Shame have found a way to keep active and relevant. A sporadic YouTube series, dubbed ‘Shamestation’, features the five bandmates interviewing musicians from all across the UK, from contemporaries such as Black Midi, to Mel B of the legendary Spice Girls. They are confidently establishing themselves as a key band in this next generation of British guitar music, giving a voice to the angry and enthusiastic. 

There is no truly no better time to listen to them than now.

- Huwen Edwards


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