And so the hyperbole begins. You have to wonder if it is a blessing or a curse.
Whilst December appeared to be about preparing “Best of 2017” lists, January is all about “who will be hot in 2018”.
January’s Rough Trade Album of the Month is “Songs of Praise” by Shame and judging by the quality of both the album and their in-store performance, they are a very accomplished young band. In their early twenties and hailing from South London, this is a very sharp debut album. Rehearsing above a pub in Brixton which was also the base of the Fat White Family Band, they’ve now broken out of the local scene.
There is a controlled edge to their music, which they can dial up and turn down. The sense of space that is within their music reminds me of some of the American post punk bands like Fugazi and the Dead Kennedys. They are the antithesis of the middle of the road of the likes of Blossoms. They are raw and hard-edged, direct and no-nonsense. Whilst there is an angry tinge to their music, it isn’t without melody as especially on the latest single “One Rizla” which matches a lovelorn chorus with snotty couldn’t give a toss lyrics.
I’d first registered the band on the 2016 Rough Trade “Counter Culture” compilation. “The Lick” was a standout, a manifesto of sorts for this young band. As a person of middling age now, I’m not sure what the relevance of the NME to Shame’s fanbase is, but its a nice touch all the same.
So why don’t you sit in the corner of your room
Sit in the corner of your room
And download the next greatest track to your MP3 device
So sincerely recommended to you by the New Musical Express
You can pick it up
Plug it in
And have it ready for free-roaming material before you know it
Then you can stroll on round to your friend’s house and play it loud and proud
As you sit around in a circle and skip one minute and thirty seconds into the chorus
So we can all sing along and gaze and marvel at the four chord future
Cause that’s what we want
That’s what we need
Something we can touch
Something we can feel
Something that’s relatable not debatable
Opening with the ominous chanting of “Dust On Trial”, we’re quickly into the urgent “Concrete” with the chiming harmonics bringing to mind the best of Keith Levene and the Edge’s 80s work.
Central to all of this is the charismatic Charlie Steen. Looking somewhere in between Shameless’s cocky Lip and Kingsmen’s Eggsy, the last time that I saw one so young own a stage, it was Starcrawler’s Arrow De Wilde and Henri Cash in Tufnell Park last year. Regardless of how small Rough Trade’s performance space is, you couldn’t take your eyes off of Charlie. Within a couple of songs, he’d got his shirt off, prowling the crowd, kissing the fans, giving them the mike on the choruses. He also had a habit of tweaking his nipples mid “Tasteless” (“I like you better when you’re not around”) but we’ll leave that one there. He’s got that Lydon street urchin thing going on to, hunching slightly over the mic stand. You are permanently wondering what he’s going to do next. When you watching effectively as a neutral without too much prior knowledge of the band and their songs, it is a surefire way to draw you into the music.
The rest of the band are as tight as anything. Nothing revolutionary in the two guitars, bass and drums formula but they’re obviously tightly rehearsed and razor sharp as a result. They seems to translate onto a larger stage too as my mate Dave can testify to, having seen them support Slaves in Birmingham.
So is the hype deserved? Don’t know, don’t care. The band will stand and fall on their own merits long after the headlines are forgotten. At the moment, they are set fair. They’ve got something to say (have a read of the Guardian interview linked above) and they’ve got an interesting way of saying it.
And that’s somewhere to start from, isn’t it?
NB: cover photo c/o of Twitter friend Dave Maynard (@moanyoldgit) with thanks
You can pick the album up on blue vinyl from Rough Trade here. The pink vinyl version is all gone.