Drunk Tank Pink by Shame album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

Dead Oceans

9

Shame

Drunk Tank Pink

Having spent most of their formative years producing music and gigging, and in the wake of their superb debut LP ‘Songs of Praise’ and its eventual end of tour cycle; London group, Shame found themselves staring nothing in the face, with the sound of silence deafening them. Then came at an awkward period of faltering adjustment and waking fever dreams. To echo the same sentiment of 20-somethings around the world, the quintet began to question reality and their general purpose in life, a true “what the fuck is going on moment?”

The outfit’s second LP finds the band exploring a tumultuous moment in their lives, via the power of jerky, gnarled post-punk and stream of consciousness lyrics. On first impressions Charlie Steen’s (vocals) word-play hits with an impulsiveness, almost like tangled rambles but it doesn’t take long to realise the band’s mouthpiece is attempting to make sense of his current environment, whilst documenting his state of mind, at the same time as searching for some kind of solace. The wiggling art-punk of ‘Nigel Hitter’ is where ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ encapsulates recent struggles “take the clothes off of my back/they don’t seem to fit” as well as detailing Steen’s coping mechanism; self-medicating and partying his way out of psychosis “I never did nothing I couldn’t handle/burn at both ends/that’s my candle/I’m burning at both ends naturally”. The strain of life can be felt via the delicate hum of ‘Human, For A Minute’ which typifies the ultimate impact of hitting the booze hard, to deal with life’s mounting challenges. “I watch my bones trying to shatter/for what do they serve”, delivered in a near whisper by Steen, which conveys a stark vulnerability, as does “I’m half the man I should be”. ‘March Day’s staccato DNA and off-kilter demeanour find the group writhing with a nervous energy, as their frontman clambers for security whilst traversing isolation and anxiety “In my room/in my womb/is where I find peace” and “close my eyes and take the pills” chronicling a fractured state of mind. The reference to ‘my womb’ comes from a room that Steen uses to cocoon himself away, to reflect and write. Further themes of detachment and isolation ricochet and collide on the tropical flecked, danceable punk romp of ‘Born in Luton’. A song that contorts and wiggles, harnessing a strung out energy, as Steen declares “I’ve been waiting outside all of my life/and when I’ve got to the door/there’s no-one inside”.

‘Drunk Tank Pink’ is wrapped up by the sprawling ‘Station Wagon’; a song that seems to find reason and hope after the record’s overall themes of hopelessness and anxiety. This isn’t to say it’s an entirely optimistic curtain call to Shame’s second record, more so a measured recollection that help is needed and sometimes these elements are out of our grasp. Enveloped by dreamy segments that border on celestial, Steen can be heard stating “I need to find a new solution/I need a new resolution and it’s not even the end of the year” as if to recognise that support is needed to navigate his way out of the doldrums. With a moment of clarity, the band’s frontman pragmatically claims “happiness is only a habit and if that is true/then I’m habitually dependent on something I cannot control/something I cannot touch/taste/or tamper with” before the song swells into a discordant wall of noise.

Shame’s new record ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ encapsulates a queasy snapshot of life, where uncertainty and anxiety hang in the air with a foreboding menace. Given the current state of things globally, I think we can all find comfort in the band’s bravery by sharing their excellent album with the world.

Words and thoughts by Adam Williams

Pre-order Drunk Tank Pink here