A punk rock approach into the mind
On Drunk Tank Pink, shame has opted to kick off 2021 with a return to their signature British punk rock vocals while showcasing a newfound maturity and structural interest in their songwriting. Founded in South London, England, back in 2014, members Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, Sean Coyle-Smith and Charlie Steen have some experience under their belt. Drunk Tank Pink follows the band’s debut album Songs of Praise, released in 2018 under their current record label Dead Oceans. As the band’s fanbase grew, so did their thoughtfulness, delivering fans a new intensity that is calculated and reformed, allowing the band to hone in on the very present subject of anxiety. The band sequestered themselves far away from society and deep in their creative process during the COVID-19 global lockdown—the group managed to stay true to their roots and the sound for which they are known, while building on the well-trodden tradition of UK punk excellence.
Drunk Tank Pink is a powerhouse of an album. It hammers through every track, with relentless drums and borderline manic vocals from frontman Charlie Steen. “Alphabet” begins with nice fast-paced drum work, decorated with a bright guitar riff. As the song progresses, it grows more and more frantic, with the guitar squealing away and Steen reaching at his vocal targets until he runs himself hoarse. He darkly sings of becoming a mindless clone to those who tell others what to do.
“Great Dog” showcases a similarly unhinged tone. It smacks the listener right off the bat, with blood-pumping drums and scratchy guitar solos. Steen’s vocals never let up, and the song comes to an end just as fast as it began. Alternatively, “Nigel Hitter” is a fun and spunky song that encapsulates the quarantine psyche in lyrics like, “Will this day ever end?/ I need a new beginning/ It just goes on/ And on, and on, and on, and on.”
The culminating track “Station Wagon” brings the theme of anxiousness and mental anxiety back into focus. Steen explores a past self, and the uncertainty that comes with growing older in lyrics like, “And I wonder/ Will it drift?/ Will it change colour, shape, and size?.” Will humans all fall into the same pattern, buying the same station wagon, or will there eventually be more excitement for what is to come? The song also has a completely different structure from the rest of the tracks, remaining far more subdued and not nearly as in-your-face as the rest of the album.
Speaking of exorcising demons, “Snow Days” broaches the subject of self-assurance and not dwelling in the past. Like “Station Wagon,” this song has a more spoken-word feel for the first half. Aside from the vocal delivery though, this track is actually far more manic in tone, like the first few tracks. Midway through, the song takes a turn, becoming a vast landscape of punk rock along with a funky groove to ride out the rest of the song.
shame truly delivers on Drunk Tank Pink. Steen and co. sing of anxiety for what is to come and existential fears through an incisive and deeply personal lens. The album is a fast-paced ride, leaving just a few stops for air, but don’t count on those moments ever lasting too long. The band truly brought their A-game on this record, giving fans the utmost maturity, the tone and punk rock basics they love, and an even more developed and impressive emotional palette.