Shame – Songs of Praise review

Secret Meeting score: 77

by Philip Moss

The British music scene is in a bit of a predicament – just look at our end of year list if you need any proof. Major record labels have tightened the purse strings, meaning they’re plumping for safe, sure fire bets. And without the likes of the shining light that is BBC 6 Music, the British artists that are managing to slip through the filter (many of whom are having to self-finance or release through smaller, independent labels) don’t get the push either. It’s a shame.

But, when times get tough – both artistically and politically – there’s often a reaction. And that reaction can be tracked throughout music history through the birth of bands from The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Smiths, to Oasis and Arctic Monkeys.

Shame are another one to add to that list.

Frontman Charlie Steen, 20, is clearly impassioned by the state of play in 2018. On The Lick he becomes a young Jarvis Cocker, satirising the immediacy to which the modern consumer has been programmed by the mp3 and download phenomenon – ‘Skip one minute and thirty seconds into the chorus so we can all sing along… cause that’s what we want,’before confirming that today’s ‘yoof’ want ‘something that’s relatable not debatable’. Young people should be furious, like Charlie and his band of not so merry droogs, at Theresa May’s Conservative Britain. They should want debate. They should want to challenge conformity.

Young people should also be embittered by the Brit Awards and other such ‘award ceremonies’ where Ed Sheeran’s marketing team pats Sam Smith’s manager on the back for propelling him up the chart with another clever marketing strategy. A point made on the most ironically pop sounding moment on the record, One Rizla – ‘I’m not much to look at and I ain’t much to hear. But if you think I love you, you’ve got the wrong idea’. This bunch want young people to look back at their dad’s copies of the NME and wonder where’s the alternative music press gone and why is Zayn Malik adorning the cover of a supposedly alternative voice? But too many aren’t. And too many don’t care.

More chaotic in tone, Donk finds Steen doing his best Mark E. Smith impression over angry, guttural guitars. Friction is Shaun Ryder fronting the Buzzcocks, while Dust on Trial is Parquet Courts if their problems extended beyond where their next joint is coming from.

This is a band that wants to ‘divide opinion’ as they told Loud And Quiet. They want to put an unfed, salivating tiger among the clipped-winged proverbial pigeons. And as Steen refrains on the baggy-evoking Concrete‘I hope that you’re hearing me.’

Now, I’m not for one minute suggesting Shame are the finished article. But, they’re potentially a very important cog in the wheel. A bunch of mates going about it the right way, trying to make a difference and telling it like it is. And there’s certainly no shame in that.