British post-punk is alive and well in 2021
As society stacks up a towering pile of universal anger, entitled hipsters shout at any movement that gets them Instagram likes and politicians scramble to make ill-informed decisions, musicians be making music that matters. Just a take a look at history, anger and rage emerge when the world is in disarray and they become our soundtracks for the time.
The British music makers are amongst the toppermost lot who should be angry and able to shout their grievances from any stage with a microphone available. However, they can't even do that right now. Last Friday (Jan 15th), not one but two truly remarkable albums were released from that neck of the woods, officially kicking off the vinyl-collecting year with records worth hearing immediately. Truly captivating, don't be surprised if we're still talking about these two come year end when we're assembling our EOY lists - yes, I do know it's only the second week of January and that's a premature call, but really they both are that good.
South London post-punk champions shame are back with their new album Drunk Tank Pink and it's safe to say there is zero second album slump present. Drunk-tank pink (the actual colour) was originally developed for a naval correctional institute in 1979 and, as studies appeared to confirm, it was intended to neutralise hostility and placate violence. It was then plastered across psych wards, prison cells and, of course, drunk tanks. The colour doesn't seem to appease shame, as the album "is bigger, louder, and more textured as frontman Charlie Steen anxiously details the strange gap between youth and adulthood" (Pitchfork).
Under the direction of super-producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Haim, Gorillaz, Florence & The Machine), they've crafted something that encapsulates the band's evolution as songwriters, something that sees the band taking new shape. It's not completely shunning the bombast of youth per se, but bravely moving beyond it with perilous detail and calculated intensity, so much so that Drunk Tank Pink is one of the best post-punk records this writer has heard in quite some time.
Take a listen to 'Alphabet', a song we're currently obsessed with and a single that sparked the band's current album cycle last year as well as the opening track of the record.
Meanwhile, Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods might be a direct contrast musically, but on Spare Ribs, their sixth proper LP together, they are weirdly making more and more sense. In the bible, God took a rib - a spare rib - from Adam to fashion his mate, Eve. To Sleaford Mods, we're all spare ribs, expendable in the eyes of the (British) government that responded too poorly, too weakly and, frankly, too late to the pandemic. If society is stacking up a towering pile of universal anger, then this is the soundtrack. Grubby frontman Jason Williamson is truly a wonder (follow them on Instagram if you need to see more). At 50 years old, he's still not only breaking through, but also breaking new ground. His lyrics are more enigmatic than ever, but still as razor sharp and lashing with enough wit, anger and working class appeal for all of us.
The album was recorded between lockdowns and features content you might expect, but not with predictable delivery. It might be the least dull album recorded during this lockdown time yet. You can hear songs about murdering your entire family in a lockdown haze ('Top Room'), that time the world stopped when the pandemic actually hit ('Glimpses'), an obscene takedown of Dominic Cummings, advisor to the UK PM ('Shortcummings') and, the highlight, 'Nudge It', an infectious romp about shitty hipsters fetishising the blue collar existence (featuring Aussie's own Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers). That's just skimming the surface really, there is so much more to dig deep on, it's very very good and improves with repeated listens. I can't tell you how many spins I've given this already.
Another obsession atm - 'Nudge It'. Just try and get this one out of your head.
SHAME'S DRUNK TANK PINK and SLEAFORD MODS' SPARE RIBS ARE OUT NOW