Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Isolation blues turns isolation punk, with Shame’s new post-punk album ‘Drunk Tank Pink’

‘Drunk Tank Pink’; a nickname for the colour responsible for calmer prison inmates, pacified psychiatric patients, and the colour of frontman, Charlie Steen’s, bedroom walls, serves as the title for Shame’s second album. In 1978, psychologists discovered that anyone who stared at the bright pink colour were immediately pacified; a concept perhaps intended to juxtapose with the sound of Shame’s noisy and punky album number two.

With a sound heralding from the same era as its pink hued namesake, Shame’s second album has clearly been influenced by post-punk bands of the late 70’s (think Talking Heads for starters), and alternative indie-rock bands from the early 80’s (Orange Juice or Gang of Four at their most raw). 

Following two years of near continuous gigs, Steen whiled away his time with lyric-writing in his pink bedroom, focussing on themes of identity and emotion in the setting of a post-tour blues ennui. Meanwhile, guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith spent his time warping the sound of his guitar to match the anguished sound of his clearly favoured pioneering 70’s and 80’s musical influences. The resulting combination renews alt-rocks interest in funky rhythms, jangly guitar riffs, and wailing vocals. 

Continuing the post-punk revival of the 2010’s into the 2020’s, ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ could not for a second be accused of being a collection of singles (as Spotify can often seem responsible for), but a cohesive collection of music that capably flows from track to track. This album is so much more refined, more developed, and perhaps, most importantly, more mature than the first. ’Drunk Tank Pink’ is evocative of the of the sound of the moment, and brings to mind Shame’s post-punk contemporaries such as Idles, Fontaines D.C, and Black Midi. It surely cannot struggle to gain popularity in this current musical climate.

The album has a marked shift in focus from the first, focussing more on themes of emotion and struggles with anxiety and mood, than the political. ‘Nigel Hitter’ covers a theme ever so relevant during its release in the grasp of the UK’s third national lockdown. “Will this day ever end? I need a new beginning..”, launches into a repetition of it “it just goes on…” -a phrase I think everyone can relate to at the moment. While retaining its energetic and direct sound throughout, the album can be clearly split into two halves. The first half retains more punch and noise, before ‘Human, For a Minute’’s slowed vocals eases the album into its second half, which contains notably more emotive and honest themes. 

While the tracks that stand out the most on this album are undoubtably those previously released as singles, (numerous, as the release of the album was delayed), ’Alphabet’ and ‘Nigel Hitter’ are the tracks that resonate with me the most. Keeping in with the tone of the rest of the albums more personal and emotive theme, these tracks retain the energy of Shame’s debut album. While no one could argue that ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ has a new sound that is by any means original, the album is loud, exhilarating, and will be a marvel to listen to live.. whenever that will be. 

Ellie Crowe
instagram @ellieecrowe

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