Is the band ‘shame’ just shameful?

A discussion on how Shame have inherited the punk ethos

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Often cited as Britain’s most exciting and upcoming post-punk band, Shame have pricked ears of alternative music fans across the nation. Yet few people can make up their minds on whether Shame are the next-big-thing, or repetitive drivel.

In the Guardian’s recent article,Shame’s feature leaves you with a mediocre and on-the-fence response as to whether these 20-something boys are making their mark in the right way. Michael Hann paints a picture of these five musicians who can’t even seem to decide on their future prospects, have extreme views on annihilating their fans, and are uncertain about what the term ‘rock’ really means in music today.

It seems that the band is trying to recreate a scene which moves away from the Britpop, lager-drinking and bucket-hat wearing indie crowds of the ‘90s and early 2000s. They appear to want to bring in more recent political motives and punk attitudes in a way that makes their anthems more meaningful and current. For example, their single on Theresa May and the Brexit deal clearly situates their anger and disillusionment at the system, safely placing their ethos in the compounds of the political punk scene developed by the likes of The Sex Pistols. They continue to address issues raised in first and second wave punk, such as the place of women at gigs and the experience of young people in modern society. However, this has led to the band advocating a move away from the laddish and masculine bravado of the post-punk and indie bands around them.

Their style seems ordinary and not at all shocking, with a slight resemblance to The Smiths. The 5-piece usually don shirts, trousers and jackets; far-removed from the style which traditionally signifies a punk identity. This visual difference is reinforced in their video for ‘One Rizla’ where they comically resemble young farmers, and couple this look with dry and stripped back, slightly off-key vocals.

Yet, talking of the laddish punk rock attitude that they claim to despise, lead singer Charlie Steen’s love of taking his top off on stage, casually smoking and licking the faces of members of the crowd seems to follow in the footsteps of Iggy Pop and, more recently, Isaac Holman from Slaves. Despite being perhaps the most important band in the current post-punk scene, one would assume that Shame would be against the larger-drinking duo. However, one cannot help but feel like they emulate in their performance and catchy, poignant songs. What seems to be the difference between Shame and Slaves is one of attitude and ethos surrounding the place of contemporary punk-rock.

Usually, I’d argue that Shame’s controversy has arisen for good reason: that no great punk band ever comes into existence without ruffling a few feathers. The issue is that they’re not challenging their critics, but instead their would-be supporters. The band’s concrete views on who their fans should be and that any rock and roll lifestyle is disgraceful seems to be alienating many. Really, no punk band has ever, or should ever, limit those who listen to their music.

This poses the question as to whether Shame have got it all wrong, and whether other artists are unlikely to support them with their aloof attitude which seems to be policing a scene that they’ve barely put a toe in to. So, should we ask Shame to stop trying to shame other bands – to say stop acting like you know it all already, and ‘well actually mate, I like my lager so f*ck off?’

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