Album Review: shame – Food for Worms (Dead Oceans)

by | Nov 13, 2023 | Album Reviews, Blog

Diving into Food For Worms feels like catching up with an old friend who’s grown up fast—you can still see the youthful glint in their eyes, but their gaze has depth, weaving the untamed spirit of shame’s debut Songs of Praise with the nuanced maturity of Drunk Tank Pink. From the moment Fingers of Steel hits, it’s evident shame is having a heart-to-heart with the world, offering a raw blend of their signature sound with a lyrical maturity. Together, it beckons audiences to their live shows with a sense of urgency, which will see shame debut in Bucharest at Control Club on Saturday, November 18.

Six-Pack ensues, weaving Steen’s candid spoken-word delivery over undulating guitars and precipitous drums. Here, the narrative is as much about entrapment in material desire as it showcases the band’s dexterity in harnessing tension and release. It grabs you by the collar and shakes you awake, spinning a yarn as much a critique as a narrative. Combined with Fingers of Steel, these tracks move beyond the youthful wrath that defined shame’s early years toward a sound as influenced by Lou Reed’s storytelling as by the angsty rhythms of Blumfeld.

Adderall hits differently. It commands attention with a chorus akin to the poignancy of The Velvet Underground’s Heroin. Steen’s raw, melodic vocals, coupled with an elusive contribution from Phoebe Bridgers, render the track an anthem of dependency. One that teeters between a leisurely cadence and an unsettling push of reality, a power ballad of West Coast melancholia.

The band’s instrumental prowess then shines on tracks like The Fall of Paul, with each member contributing to a meticulously disordered symphony, channeling the spirit of Fontaines DC, into a blend of melodic softness and explosive crescendos.

But it’s not all about the high-octane moments. Even in its more somber intervals, such as Burning By Design, shame retains a palpable coarseness. The track oscillates from introspective musings to unapologetic defiance, its sonic tempest mirroring the lyrical shift from reflective to confrontational.

Different Person delves into the disquietude of personal transformation, juxtaposing the constancy of identity against the fluidity of external change. The song’s fluctuating tones reflect the complex production approach of Flood (Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, U2, Foals)—meticulous yet raw, ordered yet tumultuous—mirroring the album’s thematic core.

Orchid, a waltz-time ballad, and All the People, a chant about brotherly love reminiscent of the Pogues, bookend the album with a reflective quality that speaks to the weight of cherished and strained friendships.

shame’s Food For Worms is a rich mosaic, each piece a fragment of the human condition—raucous, contemplative, exultant. The album’s lack of overt polish is its strength, an authentic reflection of life’s inherent chaos. Food For Worms is thus a celebration of existence itself, a raucous yet intricate journey through the spectrum of one band’s musical and emotional maturity. 

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