Feb 28, 2023
By Michael James Hall
London’s chaotic post-punkers Shame broke minds with the visceral explosion of their debut, Songs of Praise, back in 2018. 2021’s Drunk Tank Pink saw them follow up with even greater intensity and melody, now matched with an intoxicating sense of experimentation, typified by its remarkable lead single “Alphabet.”
Food For Worms, recorded live-to-tape by legendary producer Flood, is a rampaging beast of a return. At times it’s absolutely beguiling, as on opener “Fingers of Steel.” A disarming piano intro, and frantic, fearless shifts in unexpected directions give a growing feeling that the wheels could come off at any moment. It’s immediate, intimate, but simultaneously grandiose and expansive.
Capturing the band in their element, a live setting, proves a shrewd move. The serrated sound of car-crash brutal songs such as “Alibis” and “The Fall of Paul” only benefit from the rough recording, their delivery complementing their wild, freewheeling structures.
Pyrotechnic complexity and sharply angled atonality infuse both the racing, raging “Burning By Design” and “Yankees,” the latter somehow pulling out a wonderfully memorable chorus from the wreckage.
Singer Charlie Steen’s delivery switches from a snarl to a sober, somber sotto voce on “Orchid”—“Every time I hold your hand/I feel something different in your palm” sung over a Smiths-like guitar swoon. It’s in sweet moments like this and the off-key, off-kilter anthem “All the People” (“When you’re smiling and you’re looking at me/A life without that isn’t a life I can lead”) that Shame are able to show range beyond the explosive, jut-jawed thunder that brought them to the dance.
This isn’t the most accessible material, nor is it presented as such, but it is exciting, adventurous and, above all else, alive. In “Adderall” the shifts between soft yearning (“Your parents really miss you”) and angry confusion (“You stole my life from me”) are as riveting as the psych-rock ‘n’ roll of “Six-Pack,” with its accusatory shout of “You’re just a creature of bad habit/You’ve got nothing and no-one to live for.”
Food For Worms is a dark, deeply felt album that resonates even at its most frantic and obscure. The moments of gentleness mean all the more for the maelstrom that surrounds them. It’s a swirling cyclone with a peaceful heart at its center, an album that shows as much vulnerability as it does aggression, resulting in an experience both unerringly vital and vivid. (www.shame.world)
Author rating: 8/10
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