Album Review: shame – Food for Worms (Dead Oceans)
Over the course of perhaps the last 18 months, shame have risen their heads above the parapet of post-punk pyrotechnics that has been going on south of the Thames for the last 8 years or so. Their live shows have gone from entertaining to unmissable, while the band have been able to pivot away from catchy songs that make you want to sound your barbaric yawp across the rooftops of Lambeth into songs that make you want to stand arm in arm with all that you hold dear, sounding your barbaric yawp across all of known civilisation. A small difference perhaps, but one that should become immediately obvious upon hearing Food for Worms.
Opening with the two lead singles from the album, Fingers of Steel and Six Pack, you would be correct in noticing that you aren’t experiencing the whiplash that is usually delivered with shame openers (Dust on Trial into Concrete on Songs of Praise and Alphabet into Nigel Hitter on Drunk Tank Pink). The anthemic Fingers of Steel is a triumphant anthemic introduction into what’s in store, and though Six Pack does put a shift in to raise your heart rate, there lacks an anger that was present in their previous album that I hesitate to put down to… maturity? Whatever it is you know you’re unquestionably aware that you’re in for a good time.
Alibis and Adderall are the other notable highlights in the first half of the album, with the later serving as 4:25 seconds of exuberant sonic reflection to the formers 2:31 of fast-burning, cacophonous, repetitive rage. “Jack wants to fuck me? I question that I question that I question that” doesn’t just burrow into your head, much like the worms that we are food for, it ignites an anger in you towards Jack that demands resolution. As mentioned, that is where Adderall comes in. Astonishingly, a song called Adderall by shame doesn’t spend its entire run time trying to make you feel as if you are falling into a speed induced panic attack. Instead, its restraint and beauty are an unexpectedly tender highlight of the whole LP.
The second half’s first highlight for me is track sevens The Fall of Paul, 3:43 of shame really punching at their weight with the gloves unquestionably off. An unforgiving character assassination backed by typically stellar unrelenting instrumentation. Now is actually a great time to highlight that, instrumentally, the band haven’t taken a step back from the heights they reach on Drunk Tank Pink. The drums are still as evolved and joyfully schizophrenic as before, the bass and guitar work as old partners in crime from the get go, with the guitars confident in the knowledge that, even if they drive off a cliff, the bass will be right there with them, sort of like a touching reimagining of Thelma and Louise. Charlie Steen has also taken a more introspective approach lyrically and vocally, with the songs individually and the album as a whole, as previously mentioned, sounding far more mature, like a true 3rd album should. Whereas on Drunk Tank Pink the instrumentation evolved and Steen seemed to remain in 2018 (which is what made their sophomore work so well as an evolution from their debut) it feels like the band are once again on the same page, but this time with mortgages, cats, gym memberships and a spice rack.
The closer, All the People, is an Adderall pt2 sonically. Like the twisted end to a tragic musical, it throws up images of actors that portrayed characters that lost their lives throughout a production rising from the dead to march through theatre aisles and join the crowd in spontaneous thanks giving and gratitude, though perhaps tinged with the fact that, if they had known this early in the show, they may have made it to curtain. That’s life I suppose. In closing, Steen signs off as simply as the album deserves – “and its finished”.
On first listen I felt that the band had relinquished some of its guts and grit, trading it for more well-rounded anthemic cuts that ultimately left me slightly disappointed. However, on consequential listens, I don’t know what I was initially thinking. I will refrain from saying this is the bands best work, as each of their albums offer something that the previous doesn’t, though it really might be. Most importantly though, Food for Worms has solidified the bands’ ability to continue to evolve their sound in new and exciting ways, as they all march into the sunset, arm in arm, safe in the knowledge that at the end of it all, we are all Food for Worms, and that’s really quite beautiful.
‘Food For Worms’ will be released on Dead Oceans on 24th February 2023