The South London five-piece Shame return with their third album, Food for Worms, which marks a departure from their previous efforts. Moving away from their post-punk beginnings, the band have tapped into their eclectic range of influences to establish a more melodic, less abrasive sound. Frontman Charlie Steen has declared their newest work as, “the Lamborghini of Shame records”.
Having teamed up with famed producer Flood, the band recorded every track on the album live. The rough edges of the live production add to the atmosphere Flood manages to establish throughout. An ever-developing maturity is displayed across the record, with the band willing to tap into a wide array of different sounds, and lyrical topics rather than relying on the angst and anger so often associated with modern post-punk groups.
Opener ‘Fingers of Steel’ sees a haunting melody of keys begin the song before flashes of guitar chords chime in. Throughout Steen bemoans, “It’s becoming a chore, it’s becoming a waste of time”, as though desperately pleading with a friend to make the most of life while being backed with entangled guitar riffing which later eases the song to a close. An early highlight of the album is ‘Yankees’, intricate guitar licks build the stage for Steen’s vocals to shine through an anthemic chorus that is almost certain to be a hit at live shows.
Fans of the band’s earlier, more confrontational, punk should sound fear not. Their roots are still evidenced through songs like the punchy ‘Alibis’, and the brilliantly disordered ‘Six-Pack’. However, it is the gentler moments on Food for Worms that prove the most noteworthy. The tender ‘Adderall’ midway through the record showcases the band at their most gentle before ‘Orchid’ offers an acoustic introduction before a closing explosion of guitar effects.
Grungey number ‘The Fall of Paul’ sees Steen at his most aggressive, raging, “I seem to look my best, whenever I’m depressed.” A mellow mood is then brought down through the opening of ‘Burning by Design’ before another explosion of sound through the chorus, again proving a reminder that post-punk anger is still present in Shame.
The penultimate song ‘Different Person’ offers a take on growing apart from a friend, with Steen reluctantly admitting, “It had to happen eventually”. At over five minutes it seems to linger, particularly with the continually differing pace of the song, but it is helped on by the most memorable bass line on the album.
The closing track ‘All the People’ proves an apt summarisation of the album. The song exhibits the atmospheric tones built up through the album, and the catchy choruses all while maintaining the underpinnings of post-punk anger.
Food for Worms proves a departure from the sound Shame had become so linked to. Their willingness, and bravery, to explore new sounds, and moods, should be applauded. Yet, despite the experimentation, there is often a rudderless feel to the album, with the band desperately searching for the common ground they are comfortable on. However, there are enough solid songs to carry the record through, proving that some of the explorations has been worthwhile and ensuring that Food for Worms, for the most part, is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
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