Whether trashing chandeliers at festivals, vomiting on other bands’ equipment, or taking down Theresa May with their acerbic single ‘Visa Vulture’, Shame have been pretty consistent in their unapologetic, ‘no bullshit’ approach ever since they first emerged at the tail-end of 2014. Happily, the South London punks continue to be led by the gut on this, their incendiary full-length debut.
Recorded in just ten days, Songs Of Praise is entirely flab-free, and ably captures the visceral energy and the grimy, claustrophobic feel of the five-piece’s legendary live performances. Frontman Charlie Steen spends the set flailing between studied apathy, simmering contempt and explosive fury, his sneering put-downs usually liberally doused in caustic wit. “I’d love to pick you up, but I would rather watch you fall,” he taunts on ‘Donk’ before collapsing into ragged screams, cutting a compelling contrast with his faux-sweetness on ‘Friction’ as he delivers the line, “In a time of such injustice how can you not want to be heard?”
Melodically, the songwriting here is as magnetic Steen’s delivery. Showcasing a range that extends from The Fall at their most menacing (‘The Lick’) and brattish punk spleen (‘Lampoon’) to dreamy jangle-pop (‘Angie’), their debut set is richly realised and so instantaneously infectious that it practically has a ring of a greatest hits about it. Put it this way: if Songs Of Praise doesn’t end up one of the most acclaimed British debuts of 2018 I’ll be amazed.