Drunk Tank Pink is the sophomore album from London post-punk quintet shame. The band came out of a wild touring spree during the release of their well-received debut, 2018’s Songs of Praise. With this next offering we see them not lacking in passion or energy, releasing a heavily diverse 11-track that’s guided by the sound of their influences yet still completely original. Named after a certain hue that’s known to lull people into a more relaxed state, this record goes through an introspection of that idea. Fueled by the band’s transition to adulthood and their sudden surge of workload as touring musicians, Charlie Steen’s delivery feels strained and the whole thing rings with anxiety and anticipation. Still, shame did not relent. Instead they’ve pushed their boundaries. It’s a loud post-punk album recorded before the pandemic (finished in January 2020) when live music wasn’t hindered by restrictions.
Opener “Alphabet” gallops on with a haunted atmosphere, headlined by pulsing riffs that sound like an alarm. In it the band illustrates the crazy day-in and day out of a touring schedule. The grooving pop swagger of “Nigel Hitter” shifts the whole sound, hinting on a well-rounded collection of punk-adjacent sounds to come. “Born in Lutton” is one of the more structurally inventive tracks in here, starting with a rhythmically unstable start then melding to a sudden breakdown that saunters to the end. “I’ve been waiting outside for all of my life / And now I’ve got to the door there’s no one inside”, Steen sings as he struggles to find a place to belong amid all the chaos of life.
The second half of the record blisters with full energy. “Great Dog” breaches in with a heavy industrial sound and an atmosphere drowned by clashing metallic tones. “6/1” is another rhythmic romp headlined by stellar drumming. Steen declares he’s definitely not six feet tall, measuring himself up to the different standards of society. The record is full of glimpses like these, full of introspections in one hand while followed with strong declarations on the other. The song concludes with the outro: “And I hate myself / but I love myself”. The ending track “Station Wagon” is the epitome of this theme. The swagger slows down as Steen starts on a sobering note: “I need a new resolution / And it’s not even the end of the year”. By the end it evolves into a resolute promise, delivered in a spoken word manner: “And like Atlas / I shall carry the weight / Of the sky on my shoulders”.
Drunk Tank Pink is a strong follow-up for shame, showing all of their capabilities and their eagerness to stand up to the challenges ahead. Post-punk enthusiasts shouldn’t miss this relative newcomer. An engaging listen from start to end.