SHAME Songs Of Praise

 

I don’t really understand this myself, but looking ahead to 2018, it struck me this morning that these days I expect more from pop music (and at the same time, I expect less).

The hope is that something will come along that will really reinvigorate rock music this year; that will give it purpose and verve and strike a real chord; something that’s capable of lurching from the shadows into the limelight; something unexpected that will have a momentum all of its own….

Although, failing that (and expecting less) just some interesting records would do. Some surprises. Something to rise up and challenge the status quo: one glance at this list of incoming albums, however,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4W07ZGBfB9SjGC9qDqGhx3N/18-albums-we-re-looking-forward-to-in-2018  (with a few notable cutting edge exceptions) suggests a year that will bimble along, like a never-ending dinner party with guests who are in varying stages of midlife crisis.

Who knows? There’s surely got to be some good records here. They can’t all have run out of things to say can they?

But then, what of the New? I’m always looking I suppose, for new faces who have a sense of character (who have a voice of their own, brought to life with a vocabulary and turn of phrase that suggests a different outlook on the world, even if it’s only their world).

Cue SHAME! Brilliantly timed to begin the year, their debut album ‘Songs Of Praise’ is both contemplative and visceral. It has a song called ‘Dork’ on it, which is almost enough to make me happy in itself.

Shame, are five young men from south London, which you probably know by now. They were introduced to me in 2016 by Paul Jones (former Linoleum and Elastica guitarist, now ensconced in the world of A&R and management) and ended up doing a session for the 6Music show later that year.

It’s that taken that long to finally deliver their first album, but for once there was no hurry (no passing bandwagon they needed to jump on). Instead of making the record too early, they spent a year or more gigging both here and around Europe, before signing to Dead Oceans Records and coming up with this: an elegantly raw collection of 10 songs which have haunted and harangued me since the first time I heard the album last week.

In some ways they are difficult to describe. They have absorbed the attitude and occasionally the raucousness of punk; but more often they sound like they’re toying with the relics of it, while adding a groove and an enthusiastic latterday swagger.

So you have the glorious restraint, the evil eye of ‘The Lick’ followed by the insistent prickly rolling riff of ‘Tasteless’ followed in turn by the aforementioned sub two minute Stooges-infused ‘Dork’ (does every band in south London at the moment own at least one Iggy record?).

Above this glorious racket of dirty sheets and satin, singer Charlie Sheen sounds – in tandem with the music – like he’s pacing the room around you (up and down, up and down, never still) occasionally banging on the walls to emphasise the songs’ claustrophobia.

Maybe its because I’ve been re-reading a lot of old Hellblazer comics recently, but as an image I see him as a young John Constantine, with his hands on his temples, wrestling with an assortment of teenage demons: isolation and frustration, interspersed with moments of absolute lucidity.

Much of this album – if you’ve been following them over the past 18 months – you will already know, including the singles ‘Concrete’ and ‘Gold Hole’.  But you can add to them the accusatory ‘Friction’, guitars ringing and chiming like an insolent garage rock John Squire – it’s terrific, it really is – and the six and a half minute ‘Angie’ (which again to me sounds like a dirtier, here and now, first album Stone Roses, if it had been conceived on the back seat of the 159 nightbus to Brixton).

It is dark and beautiful. A distinctive new voice in a year likely at times to be full of old ones.

Be warned though old(er) guard! As Sheen states in the opening track ‘Dust On Trial’: “What’s the point in talking, if all your words have been said?”

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