Released February 24, 2023 via Dead Oceans
Reviewed March 23, 2023
Top tracks (based on community voting)
Adderall (75%), Fingers of Steel (58%), All The People (42%)
shame burst out of the South London scene with their scrappy, explosive, and angst-ridden debut—Songs of Praise—five years ago now. Quickly cementing themselves at the forefront of modern post-punk, their music channeled rage and anxiety into sheer ferocity. Followed up with 2021’s Drunk Tank Pink, we saw the five-piece—still all in their early 20s—continuing down a similar approach, bottling frustration into brooding and menacing post-punk. On their third go-round, shame haven’t quite found peace, but display a newfound sense of composure and vulnerability alongside their rough edges. Food For Worms is the turning point in a hard-fought battle for the band, spawned from being thrust into the spotlight as young adults still discovering their place in the world.
The recording process for Food For Worms was unlike that of their first two records. Yet, it feels like the most natural approach given shame’s history and origins. Rather than recording their third album piece-by-piece, Food For Worms was recorded live in-studio, with the band playing as one. This approach hones in on the raw energy of shame’s live performances that were a pivotal part of their rise—and ultimately, where the band is at their most electric. There is an immediate sense of togetherness and camaraderie that rings through; everything coalesces and shame is truly operating as a unit. It’s polished in the way a studio album is expected to be, but it comes alongside the rough edges, imperfections—and most importantly—the feel of a riveting performance.
The band just sounds different than they ever have. Food For Worms is far less adherent to the conventions of post-punk we’ve known shame to favor. A certain level of aggression is still there, but it comes with restraint and is placed alongside more melodic sections, rather than taking the form of blitzes of fury. Guitars still drive much of the momentum, but are never quite as spiky, jerky, or domineering—the drums far from as brooding or menacing—as they were on Songs of Praise and Drunk Tank Pink. Food For Worms lends almost equal importance to every aspect of the mix, exchanging an ounce of polish for a helping of continuity.
Likewise, Food For Worms also brings the most varied vocal performances of any shame record yet. Vocalist Charlie Steen brought an assortment of shouts, barks, and spoken word to the band’s first two albums, but made a deliberate choice to train his voice, lean into what he saw as a weakness, and make it a focal point of Food For Worms. Already an incredibly charismatic frontman without it, Steen’s singing only adds another dimension to the way he is able to express emotions of frustration, confusion, and the like. And with the live aspect of the recording, we also get more harmonizing and background vocals than ever as all of the members unify and sing together.
Tapping into the energy of their live performances is critical to Food For Worms, as it’s the love of music and the love for performing that has carried shame through the years. But what’s been just as important in keeping the band sane throughout all the ups and downs is the relationship they all share, and it shines through in the songwriting just as much as it does within their sonic evolution.
Ultimately, Food For Worms is an ode to friendship; the good times and the bad times. The ability to evolve, be there for another, and support those you love most. As time goes on and we all encounter our own challenges, develop our own lives, these dynamics are often challenged, sometimes destroyed. But, compassion and a willingness to accept change can form unbreakable bonds—or at the very least, make peace with the relationships that we no longer hold close. And that’s where shame finds themselves on Food For Worms, embracing and celebrating the beauty of it all—even through all the pain that may come alongside it. – Dominick (8.5/10)
shame's third studio album, Food for Worms, comes at a pivotal point in the band's career—the third album. In any artist’s career, the third album is a tricky one. Do you change up the formula and freshen up the sounds or fix up the loose ends in hopes of bigger and better things, potentially alienating core fans in the process? Or do you stick to your guns and slightly maneuver the goalposts while keeping the foundations intact? Food for Worms does the latter, and it passes with flying colours. The endearing quality of playing slightly off, but knowing exactly what you're doing, will forever be exciting. The band meander in on rough-and-rugged musicianship, hobbling along like a three-legged dog they coax you into believing that they're new to the game. Let me let you in on a little secret—they know exactly what they're doing. An album which—on occasion—shows a softer and more introspective side, while sticking to the guns that we have come to expect from the band. In short, it's fantastic. – Peter (8/10)
Dominick: 8.5/10 | Pax: 8.4/10 | Peter: 8/10 | Alan: 7.5/10 | DeVán: 7.5/10
shame has returned! After the highly acclaimed Drunk Tank Pink, they punch right back with their most melodic and sonically beautiful work yet. They’ve matured, and so has their sound. Blending their early roots of rebellious post-punk with more recent efforts to add melodies and keys. Themes of friendship, brotherhood, heartbreak, self-identity, addiction, and feeling lost in a world of loneliness, are riddled poetically throughout the album. The band has coined Food For Worms as their “Lamborghini” of shame albums, and honestly, the term fits like a glove. – @cinemaxter (9/10)