Shame – Drunk Tank Pink
Released January 15th, 2021 on Dead Oceans Records
Someone on Twitter recently tried to claim that because they’d never heard of Phoebe Bridgers that her record label had clearly engaged in payola to get her a berth on Saturday Night Live. I bring this up because that label is Dead Oceans and I’m left with the absurdly funny vision of some hapless guy in a suit trying to convince mainstream radio channels to play “Alphabet” or “Water In The Well”, from Shame’s latest. Even if they could swap $10,000 (or whatever payola goes for these days) in exchange for radio play, who is the audience? The normies listening to radio will scratch their heads between beefy slabs of chud rock; no one’s about to slot a direct Gang Of Four derivation like “Nigel Hitter” in between drop-D explosions from Seether or Hinder or whoever. The real heads who might be tuning in ironically would immediately note the references to Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, and Joy Division and think that while it might be nice that post-punk is less of a vague descriptor and now an actual genre, this has all been done before, sometimes better, mostly about as well. Women were doing this sort of thing with more artistic skronk ages ago; the successor bands Viet Cong and Preoccupations have done this about as well, and they weren’t exactly blowing up the charts. People have liked it, don’t get me wrong; the glowing reviews and the peak at #8 so far on the UK charts shows that someone out there is listening to what Shame is offering. I just couldn’t tell you why, specifically, this band and this album. Are we so drained of novelty in the Age of the Plague that we are heaping praise on what amounts to a slightly more drawn-out Entertainment? Look, if this is what is going to move streams these days then I’m all for it; god knows I would prefer Drunk Tank Pink to another tiresomely twee outing from Real Estate or Tennis. It’s just that Drunk Tank Pink isn’t saying anything particularly new; it’s as though food critics were praising a restaurant for it’s take on meatloaf. Sure it’s tasty and it satisfies, but it’s still meatloaf at the end of the day.