Shame: Drunk Tank Pink (Dead Oceans) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, February 24th, 2024  

Drunk Tank Pink

Dead Oceans

Jan 15, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

A natural impulse for rock bands coming off their debut is to go bigger on the second album. That way at least you can’t blame a lack of ambition if a sophomore slump occurs. Sometimes, though, it pays off to rein it in a little bit—take Interpol, or Pearl Jam. South London crew Shame signal such a streamlining right away on Drunk Tank Pink. In contrast to the dramatic entrance of “Dust on Trial” from their 2018 debut Songs of Praise, here they drop the ‘post’ from the post-punk tag that never quite fit them, and mic the vocals and drums up close like it’s a basement tape from 1981.

Jarring at first, and a touch retro on second listen, the curious production gambit pays off over repeated plays. Drunk Tank Pink isn’t lo-fi, but it is meant to sound immediate. The rawness captures both the band’s own strain to reconcile public success and personal health, and the wear and tear of overexposure that is a steady undercurrent to modern existence. “Please ditch your telephone/Close curtains no one’s home/Detach your Internet/They don’t see none of that,” singer Charlie Steen beckons in a David Byrne-esque yelp on “Water in the Well,” a spinning bout of syncopated beats and surging guitars, pots and pans, and sweat and screams.

This time around, Steen’s urgency to simply get things off his chest takes precedence over catchy phrasing. Some of the most memorable lines are not rallying cries but inside voices turned out, like the search for a moment of peace and clarity in “Nigel Hitter”: “Change the sheets on my bed/I wanna smell fresh linen/Will this day ever end?/I need a new beginning.” The rest of the band carry their weight with equal anxiety and instinct. Guitarists Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green tangle and fray on tracks like “6/1” and “March Day” in a manner reminiscent of Women’s Public Strain. Bassist and clutch auxiliary shouter Josh Finnerty and drummer Charlie Forbes are the blistering engine driving belters like “Born in Luton” and “Harsh Degrees.”

Drunk Tank Pink comes three years nearly to the day after Songs of Praise, bruised and bruising, fitter and angrier. Shame have eased off the anthemic leanings of songs like “One Rizla” for an approach that is both more gut-level and intricate. There isn’t as fine a crystallization of what they’re capable of as the momentum build in the first two minutes of Songs of Praise’s “Concrete,” but overall Drunk Tank Pink is more consistent, more reassuring of Shame’s future. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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