Food For Worms by Shame album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions


Food For Worms


There were two pivotal moments that spawned shame’s third record; a shift in thematic influence and imposed deadlines. Regarding the former, when reflecting on ‘Food for Worm’s inspiration frontman Charlie Steen had a revelation when speaking to a friend after one of their gigs “I don’t think you can be in your own head forever. It’s weird isn’t it? Popular music is always about love, heartbreak, or yourself. There isn’t much about your mates.” For the latter, the Londoners found themselves aimlessly meandering during early sessions at the start of the pandemic. With no set completion date the five piece lacked the impetus to create.

Recognising the outfit needed to be jolted back to life their management hit them with a challenge; they’d been booked to play two intimate shows in three weeks’ time that would consist of purely new material. With the pressure on and the lure of the live environment, the quintet relished the urgency and knuckled down. The result: ‘Food for Worms’, an album that Steen refers to as “the Lamborghini of shame records.” Now three albums to the good, shame have opted to expand their sonic palette from their post-punk early beginnings. The roots of their first two records are still present but the inclusion of differing dynamics has helped broaden the group’s musical landscape. Whether it’s the adoption of piano, acoustic moments or shifting tempos, it’s notable the London gang have pushed themselves to conjure up something that displays their growth as people and as artists. At times ‘Food for Worms’ finds itself trudging in the mid-paced zone, which impacts the level of dynamism found on shame’s previous output. Although, when the five-some hit the sweet spot with their most recent effort, it purrs like, well, a Lamborghini.

Album opener ‘Fingers of Steel’ acts as the perfect summation of ‘Food for Worms’, as it chronicles the depiction of someone who’s fallen upon difficult times “you know you’re wasting your life away/there’s a sun outside but you don’t see it” announces Steen. Conversely, the song lacks the vigour you’d normally expect from a song opening a shame record. It’s not so much a false start, more of a leisurely warm-up before ‘Six Pack’ bolts out the gate. This is where shame explode into a dishevelled punk-ish blur of wah-wah guitar, frantic drums and lolloping bass. It’s an unpredictable mash of acerbic tones that ebb and flow from spasmodic to dreamy as Steen documents a perfect room that fulfils your deepest desires, “now you’ve got Pamela Anderson reading you a bedtime story and every scratch card is a fucking winner”. Although, this mental utopia is nothing but fictitious as the band’s mouthpiece observes “you’re just a creature of bad habits/you’ve got nothing and no-one to live for” as this lyric typifies Steen’s earlier sentiment “I don’t think you can be in your own head forever” perfectly.

‘Food for Worm’s is a record that harnesses an acute vulnerability, whether that’s observing others or remarking on auxiliary influences that disrupt relationships. ‘Adderall’ adopts a mournful twang and an isolated swoon as Steen tenderly declares “I can’t let you slip away/it’s not good for your health” while ‘Orchid’ recounts a connection that’s become fragmented. “Every time I hold your hand/I feel something different in your palm” and the repeated “I know you hide behind yourself” gesture towards someone who’s not being true to themselves. Sonically this song epitomises shame’s newfound lust of broadening their musical horizons, as the track commences via an acoustic strum, anchored by an elegant composure before slowly erupting into a wall of gnarled noise. ‘Burning by Design’ is another key moment on ‘Food for Worms’ that emphasises the group’s desire to push themselves aurally and lyrically. A sparseness announces the song’s early moments as Steen comments “I sold my life for you/you took my stride for me/you don’t care about the feeling anymore/when it hits it’s always raw” before the record’s centrepiece skips from near nothingness to an intense, ragged finale that sounds akin to mangled chase music. Something that ‘Food for Worms’ does well is display shame’s new penchant for something that twists and turns with unpredictable abandon but this means the punchier missives from previous outings are in shorter supply. ‘Fall of Paul’ and ‘Alibis’ do a decent job of sating an appetite for brief, fidgeting post-punk explosiveness in amongst the group’s more expansive tracks but a few more direct hits wouldn’t go a miss.

The band’s third instalment isn’t quite the Lamborghini promised, but nonetheless ‘Food for Worms’ is a good yet partially flawed addition to shame’s discography.

Pre-order Food For Worms by Shame HERE


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