After the absolute shitstorm of 2020, you’d have thought 2021 would hopefully deliver some sort of reprieve.
After losing pretty much every avenue of income last year, English band Shame pinned all their hopes on 2021 being the year they could thrive, via touring their new album Drunk Tank Pink.
Slaving away through last year to craft together eleven tracks, everything seemed to be on the up for the band. And then the full reality of Brexit hit. Vocal against the decision to leave as well as the deal the Johnson government struck up with the EU, Drunk Tank Pink could very well have been a protest album for the ages.
While it isn’t necessarily a protest release, the way the tracks propel themselves across the soundscape makes the listener froth at the chance to see it performed live and see the anger of Shame in the flesh.
Returning exactly three years after their first album, 2018’s stellar Songs of Praise, Drunk Tank Pink is a more mature and complete album. One that begins to unleash the true talent and potential of a band once hidden behind blunt lyrics and brutal music. Written primarily by vocalist Charlie Steen, the album comes from a viewpoint of a lyricist who lives and loves the highs of tour life. But, also one who struggles somewhat when isolated from his band mates, his job as a musician and the touring slog. It isn’t obvious, but Drunk Tank Pink is an isolation album, and released in a pandemic, so oh so timely and pertinent.
Lead single “Alphabet” gives a more upbeat and rhythmic taste of what’s to come on the rest of the album, as the influence of producer James Ford comes to forefront. Leaning into the sounds Ford created previously with acts like Foals, the earthy tones of “Alphabet” set the scene for what is a genuinely fun and exciting release.
The jaunty “Nigel Hitter”, with its infectious guitar riff gives the listener an opportunity to fully engage with an expanded, luxurious sound of the band. Here, Steen talks about burning at both ends, an obvious allusion to being worn out from touring and the struggles of acclimating back to civilian life. The chaotic guitars on “Born in Luton” opens up what feels like a track that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack or FIFA 22. Its change of tempo over the last third of its run showcases the growth of a band, who after relentless touring of their debut, are now entirely sure of what they can produce in a recorded and live setting. “March Day” is a fun, near spoken-word track, before reaching its pinnacle with cyclonic guitars and surprisingly lush harmonies. It’s an easy and noticeable highlight on Drunk Tank Pink.
Despite toning down from the overall intensity of its predecessor, Drunk Tank Pink maintains the essence of what has made Shame such an acclaimed act. “Water in the Well” has a relative and fun stagger to it. There’s all the yells and guitar licks you’ve come to love of the band return, while “Snow Day” has a Humbug era Arctic Monkeys vibe. Additionally “Great Dog” is not short of chaos and sweat wrapped into less than two minutes of full frontal rock.
Nearing its end, the one-two punch of “6/1” and “Harsh Degrees” provides Drunk Tank Pink with a moment that will undoubtedly allow Shame to cement themselves as one band to continue to watch now and into the future. And while “6/1” and “Harsh Degrees” prove to be a moment, closer “Station Wagon” is a near seven minutes of pure grandeur and beauty messily delivered in a rhetoric filled slow build for the ages.
While only three weeks into the year, Drunk Tank Pink could well prove to be a stand out release for the entirety of 2021. Named after a shade of pink alleged to disarm and calm those who stare at it long enough, Drunk Tank Pink is equal parts exciting, alarming, disarming and charming. It’s a positive step for Shame, and one that will not fail to impress for a while longer.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Drunk Tank Pink by Shame is out now via Dead Oceans. Listen to and order the album HERE.