Photo: Pooneh Ghana / Pitch Perfect PR

Shame Move Beyond Post-Punk on the Euphoric ‘Food for Worms’

Post-punk revivalists Shame’s Food for Worms shows a band unafraid to move beyond their sound. The result is anthemic, pulverizing, thoughtful, and expansive.

Food for Worms
Dead Oceans
24 February 2023

Shame have never lacked confidence. Arriving with a near universally-acclaimed debut, the post-punk revivalists came equipped with an admirable self-assurance backed up by quality musicianship and, importantly, a sneering, spitting attitude. 

Food for Worms shows a band unafraid to move beyond their sound and influences, staying true to both while exploring new terrain. The result is at once anthemic, pulverizing, thoughtful, and expansive.

The opener, “Fingers of Steel”, sounds massive, a festival-ready attention-grabber of crunching guitars and arresting call-and-response vocals. “You’re complaining a lot about the things that you got given, you know you’re wasting away, there’s a sun outside, but you don’t see it”, lead vocalist Charlie Steen sing-shouts, and it is unclear who Charlie is criticizing, a friend or himself. 

The ambiguity continues in “Six-Pack”, a chaotic and thundering take-down of delusion, hypocrisy, and small-mindedness. Guitars fuzz and wah with pummelling drums and bass to acerbic quips about banal desires all being satisfied within a room. “You’re just a creature of bad habit, you’ve got nothing and no one to live for, but you’ve got this room, and guess what? This room has got you,” Charlie mutters/warns in the song’s well-executed breakdown before a frenzied crescendo. 

Food for Worms‘ great strength is its songwriting and dynamic variance, as demonstrated in the thrilling “Alibis”. Tension builds throughout a paranoid and nihilistic couple of minutes, exploding in layers of dissonance and distortion. “Fall of Paul” and “Different Person” do something similar, with frequent changes in pace and sounds. The former is a dizzying but ecstatic track of crushing volumes and sonic experimentation. The latter is Shame at their most adventurous, mixing psych-rock, off-kilter drum patterns, and frenetic, fast-fretted bass. 

It’s not all sound and fury, though. “Orchid” is an alt-rock-sounding ode to youthful introspection with sweet acoustic guitars and pianos, while “Adderall” and “Burning by Design” show Shame’s capability for big singalongs. 

“All the People” provides a satisfying close to Food for Worms. “All the people that you’re going to meet, don’t you throw it all away because you can’t love yourself”, Shame sing on an uplifting and heartfelt chorus, a positive send-off that could be an encouragement to the listener or self-affirmation. 

Post-punk has endured precisely because it cannot be pinned down. A genre that can contain both Joy Division and Devo, that can take influences from the worlds of disco, electronic music, and punk rock, and still somehow cohere into a legible (if often blurred) aesthetic was always going to be ripe for reinvention. 

Despite this, there is a general sound people think of when they think “post-punk”: the kind pioneered by bands like Wire or the Fall. If any criticism could be leveled at Shame’s first outings it could be a tendency to stick within these lines. While the group may be re-energizing the music they might potentially not be doing much new with it.

Food for Worms should dispel any such notions. A well-crafted and brilliantly performed album, it showcases a group bringing in new influences and ideas, all with an infectious sense of enthusiasm and energy. It’s an exciting third chapter for a band that, for all that assuredness, still sounds hungry.  

RATING 7 / 10