Shame’s first album was a frantic assault that saw the group heralded one of the saviours of British indie music. But the success of that record exacted a heavy toll. Their pummelling and fraught second LP is the sound of a band reckoning with excess, burnout and a loss of identity.
It’s hugely affecting, singer Charlie Steen’s hoarse croon counterpointed with slamming guitars and a bottomless jitteriness. Obvious comparisons include The Fall, whose tightly-wound riffs Shame approximate, and Sleaford Mods, with whom they share a lurching, anything-could-happen sensibility. Steen is clearly singing – sometimes screaming – from the depths of his soul on tunes such as 'Nigel Hitter' and 'Alphabet'.
And while the Drunk Tank Pink isn’t perfect – it could do with a few more choruses – its cry from the heart is authentic and often unforgettable.
If you want to feel old, reflect on the fact that it’s almost six years since Zayn Malik left One Direction. In the far off and innocent days of spring 2015 (pre-Brexit, Trump and Covid) this rated as headline-grabbing news.
But life in 1D appears to have inflicted some level of emotional scarring on Malik, whose solo career has had a beneath-the-radar quality even as former bandmates Harry Styles and Niall Horan continue to pursue the limelight.
He remains in that deep and mysterious vein on his third post-1D record. The good news is that, at just 11 tracks, it’s far brisker than the 27-song slog that was 2019’s Icarus Falls. Malik and partner Gigi Hadid have become parents in the meantime and the sense of a young man in a period of transition burbles up through single 'Better', which, with its ennui-fuelled guitar, sounds like a more miserable Shaun Mendes.
A gothic melodrama meanwhile swirls around Tightrope, while the ghostly 'When Love’s Around' features a duet between Malik and Internet singer Syd. As with the rest of the record, the song is understated almost to a fault – but patience reveals hidden depths to an album that demands to be approached on its terms.