Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Shame's Food for Worms frustratingly feels like a firework without a fuse

"Food for Worms"

Release date: 24 February 2023
Shame - Food for Worms cover
21 February 2023, 09:00 Written by Sam Eeckhout

In 2018, Shame were one of Britain’s most exciting and promising acts.

They garnered just about every synonym in the book relating to exciting – dangerous, ferocious, urgent. You name it. Yes, even essential.

Through the 38 minutes of their debut there were riveting and captivating moments of punk that signalled to the world they were a band deserving of observation in the years to come. But what could they become? How far could they go? The talent was undeniably there; we just had to wait for them to put it together. Like your Dad’s old Mustang sitting in the garage ready to hit the highway if it could just get a few hours of repairs done first.

Fast forward five years to their third full-length, and we’re still waiting. Food for Worms is a bullet sitting inside a pistol without a trigger, full of potential and power but unable to explode and impact its surroundings. A firework without a fuse. Food for Worms is frustrating in its lack of direction, but more than anything, frustrating because it could be spectacular.

That’s not to say there aren’t fresh moments of fun. Like the crawling and diving bassline that emerges on “Different Person” or the epic guitar riff on the back half of “The Fall of Paul”. There are consistent flashes of gripping songwriting scattered throughout.

And there are frisky moments of contrast between playful and edgy on songs like “Alibi” and “Orchid”. While “Alibi” oozes cool and drips immediacy, it’s followed by the painfully meandering – and Phoebe Bridgers featuring – “Adderall”. The juxtaposition between these two songs is a microcosm for the album as a whole. A 10-piece orchestra without a conductor – a lack of purpose or cohesion.

However, across Food for Worms, there is still a level of exploration that’s rewarding, particularly on the back half of the record, which rids itself of expectations and truly lets loose.

This exploration reaches its creative peak during “Orchid” – which starts as a mellow rock ballad and explodes into a pissed-off jam, finally showing off how the puzzle pieces can fit together. Even so, with each shiny glimpse of possibility comes a confusing imbalance, like the closer, “All the People”, which asks way too much of Steen vocally. Instead of creating a finale that will rouse a party, it puts us to sleep.

The songs that made Shame compelling and ‘one to watch’ were the recklessly brave songs. The curling and wailing guitars made you want to drive fast, with lead singer Charlie Steen standing chest out, with authoritative wit on the mic. These moments are lost and buried between too much on Food for Worms – stuck hiding behind the listless, flat fillers of the record.

Shame’s own potential is their downfall, as the bar is set higher for those we expect more from. Their true identity lies within their urgency and explosiveness, the agitation that sits in several pockets of the album. Ultimately, there’s a missing element that separates the great from the very good - consistency.

Until then, we’ll have to collectively keep waiting. Five years since storming onto the scene – it could be time’s up. Food for Worms is more evolution than revolution, a slow and slight nod to progression instead of the giant leap that would ignite the masses.

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