Shame Credit: Courtesy the artist

In the face of uncertainty and fear, some people would rather climb back into the proverbial womb. For Shame vocalist Charlie Steen, “the womb” was a nickname for a tiny laundry space that had been converted into a bedroom in the apartment he shared with guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith. It proved itself the perfect place for him to draft lyrics for the UK postpunk band’s second album, Drunk Tank Pink, named for the supposedly calming shade of paint on the room’s walls. The five-piece group, formed in 2014 when its members were still in high school, rose to international fame with their breakout 2018 debut, Songs of Praise. During a break from heavy touring in 2019, the bandmates realized that diving into the unconventional lifestyle of working musicians at such young ages had taken a toll on them mentally, emotionally, and socially. “We were like tourists in our own adolescence,” Steen told The Independent in a recent interview, explaining that when the constant stream of shows stopped, Shame suddenly found themselves struggling with questions of adulthood—especially how to form personal identities outside the band. Those themes coalesce on Drunk Tank Pink, where Shame move beyond the electrifying albeit somewhat pro forma postpunk of their debut to explore new sounds and rhythms. The single “Nigel Hitter” feels like a tribute to the propulsive rhythms of ESG, cited by Coyle-Smith as a major influence, while the disjointed textures of “Harsh Degrees” beg to be unraveled like a puzzle. No matter your age or background, if you’ve spent nearly a year in some sort of pandemic-related isolation, Steen’s soul-searching lyrics ought to feel relatable—they sometimes come across more like an inner monologue than a journal entry. Plenty of punk attitude remains, notably on “Great Dog” and opener “Alphabet,” but Shame’s relatively mature swagger and experimental turns prove that the band made the right call when they decided not to sweep their private problems under the rug—instead they battled them head-on and opened a hard-earned new chapter.   v