When you see a clean-shaven, well-groomed young man in a tweed jacket, shirt and tie, velvet flares and espadrilles, stagediving into the moshpit of London’s most famous punk rock venue, you know you’re at no ordinary rock show. And for once, the intrepid reveller is not Charlie Steen, singer of South London punk urchins Shame, who has a penchant for both formal dress and vacating stages headfirst.
Shame’s debut album Songs Of Praise has injected some much-needed anarchic energy and sardonic spittle into the increasingly bland indie-rock genre. And live, you quickly realise that they’re not just paying curled-lip service to that idea. The menacing gothic growl of Dust On Trial and the brooding bass crawl of The Lick, allied to Steen’s whisper-to-a-bellow vocal, resembles a charity shop Killing Joke, but there’s a furious urgency to Concrete’s tale of romantic paranoia as Steen howls painfully, ’And is she with you noooow?’
By the time they bow out with the louche, snarling Gold Hole, Steen is stripped to the waist, hanging off the roof beams having his nipples tweaked by overenthusiastic admirers, while the four musicians behind him, barely out of their teens, lurch and stomp in hungry pursuit of every ragged riff. Beer, secondhand clothing and sticky footwear go flying in all directions. Simple rock’n’roll pleasures, served up in refreshingly idiosyncratic style.