‘Drunk Tank Pink’ sees Shame sounding more consistent, more mature, and more isolated.


Credit: Dead Oceans

Verdict: Matured lyrics meet a more developed sound to explore personal isolation.

January 2021 has been a month of stillness. The world and much of life feels very much on pause, emphasised further by the chill of this winter weather. With little else to occupy yer time with, staring out the window at overcast skies is given an ideal soundtrack by Shame’s new album.

Shame arrived with briskness in 2018, delivering post punk with punch. Now however, on their sophomore effort, the underlying malaise in the world they hinted at on their earlier material seems to have taken over. Existence has its drags, one which this album almost celebrates. One minute you feel like you can ignore it, and the next you’re neck deep and wallowing. Drunk Tank Pink swings between both ends with an uncanny ability.

There’s no doubt that plenty of these cuts will do superbly when we get to hear them live – the boppy vibes of ‘March Day’ and the whirl of ‘Alphabet’ are sure to become staples of their revered set lists. But the real interest on this record is when they embrace their new stylisation; Shame’s snarkiness has become a well-sharpened wit, their instrumentation is innovative but also consistently themed, and they feel far more in control of the effect they want to have on you than before.

And that effect is the feeling of dealing with being isolated; being lost in the cavities of your own thoughts, and generally looking for some purpose or drive to aim for. The band have noted that dreams and internal thoughts have been a major inspiration for the record, and it explains the absence of more catchy riffs.

Rather than relying on those to sell the album as they did so well on Songs Of Praise, this record drowns you in brilliant, noisy guitars, a real move away from the often more bludgeoning post punk of late from their contemporaries. It gives a buoyancy and backdrop to their words, colouring in their sometimes cryptic descriptions. Isolation might be a depressing topic, but Shame don’t let any negativity overpower.

“…much of its inspiration comes from the band’s experience of being on tour and living non-stop from around 2018 to 2019.”

It’s important to note that this record wasn’t written within our current time – much of its inspiration comes from the band’s experience of being on tour and living non-stop from around 2018 to 2019. Perhaps however, as much of our generation faces internalised constant needs to be doing stuff, ‘millennial burnout’ and the vapidity of a social media world, a band overly stressed and feeling disconnected is an apt vehicle for conveying such feelings.

Shame grapple with a lot on this record: questioning your masculinity and identity after starting a relationship on ‘Human, for a Minute’; disconnection from your family and childhood on ‘Born In Luton’; confronting yourself and your subconscious when your close your eyes on ‘Snow Day’. There’s no doubt that the band feel a lot more mature than when we last heard from them, and more willing to be more personal with their audience.

And yet, as much as many of these themes might lead you to believe that they’re in a personal limbo of sorts, it’s the stillness pervading much of the background of this record that would suggest otherwise. Drunk Tank Pink, in both its sounds and construction, is a satisfyingly complete record, stolid in how it wants you to interpret it and what it means to the band.

“Now, they’re a band delivering records with deep, moving themes, and equally developed sounds to go with them.”

Shame were once a band I yearned to experience live – their reputation as one of the best acts around at the moment in the UK precedes them, and it very much lives up to the hype – and that certainly hasn’t changed. But what has shifted is their intellectual ability. Once they rallied against everyday disgruntlement with a flurry of gritty riffs. Now, they’re a band delivering records with deep, moving themes, and equally developed sounds to go with them.

As I stare at the overcast skies covering me while I write this, moments on Drunk Tank Pink continue to cross my mind. It’s not an album for which a couple of its song will really stand out to you, but rather the full experience and what it communicates. The world is very much still at the moment, and that stillness often leads to us getting lost in our own thoughts and worrying about our own troubles. Shame’s new record very much conveys the sound of how that feels.


Munro Page

Munro Page is a music blogger and former student radio host based in Cardiff, Wales. He likes: thrift stores, cooking and parrots. He dislikes: chain restaurants, the M25 and Simply Red.