Drunk Tank Pink
January 15 2021 (Dead Oceans)
Words: Ellie Ward
Shame return to follow their first album, 'Songs of Praise', with 'Drunk Tank Pink', a less brash, more measured, textured work, named after the shade of paint vocalist Charlie Steen used on the walls of his home while making the record.
This second album shows no signs of having suffered the proverbial problems that can beset a follow-up, and there is certainly no dearth of reference points or memorable tracks. 'Drunk Tank Pink' sees the South London five-piece make a move from the riotous post-punk of their debut, to the sprawling adventurism laid out in this bolder James Ford-produced work.
From the blazing big opener 'Alphabet', with its driving bassline and stirring hooks, it is Steen's inimitable explosive vocal delivery that lends added gravitas. 'Nigel Hitter' is one of the big-hitters here. Steen's sombre opening soon moves into familiar menacing territory, carried by Charlie Forbes' formidable drumming, and the tense, post-punk guitar riffs which dig like ice picks, dictate the flow; while the biting, bleak 'Born in Luton' fuses a funky, off-kilter rhythm with a penetrating guitar backdrop, the lament is "I’ve been waiting outside for all of my life / And now I’ve got to the door there’s no one inside."
The refrain on the bouncy, muscular 'March Day' continues with the inward-looking jadedness: “In my room, in my womb is the only place I find peace," offset by the frenetically wound pace. Approaching seven minutes long, closer 'Station Wagon' is dark, sombre, chilling, as it rolls along for the first third, at a steady pace before Steen picks up briefly before giving way to an incongruous piano, and then as the drums take over it carries the whole song and album to a cathartic flourishing end.