Shame, Food for Worms review: The south London band’s third outing rumbles with all the mayhem of their live shows

‘Food for Worms’ sees Shame confidently embrace their flaws (Pooneh Ghana)
‘Food for Worms’ sees Shame confidently embrace their flaws (Pooneh Ghana)

There’s a reason they’re called Shame. “You’re complaining a lot about the things that you’ve got,” proclaims frontman Charlie Steen on the first words of their accomplished third album. Anyone else feel seen? Food for Worms, described by the South London five-piece as an “ode to friendship”, abandons introspection. Sick of songs about romance and self-obsession, Shame take a critical but loving look at those around them – and in the process, demand their listeners do the same.

We’re first fed “Fingers of Steel”. It’s a bold opener, charged with a melancholic energy. If the track sounds familiar, that’s partly down to its nostalgic early-Noughties wonky guitar, and partly down to its near-constant airplay on 6 Music. As the song approaches a near-perfect end, it’s suddenly interrupted by a random pang. The ad-hoc moment is telling of Shame’s approach to the record as a whole. These songs were born from a challenge set by their manager to write a brand new set in two weeks, ahead of two live shows. As a result, the tracks were created with small spaces and crowd-connection in mind. They were then recorded live, complete with all their muddy imperfections.

The signature kicking-and-screaming disorder of a Shame gig arrives on “Six Pack”. You can almost see Steen’s sweaty shoulders above your head as he’s carried across the crowd. There are a few chances to come up for air, though. “Adderall” shows a softer side to Steen’s unfiltered vocals, while light and hopeful acoustics bloom on the delicate “Orchid”.

In many ways, the record is very on-brand for Shame. The band continue to wriggle free from conventional melodies. Their obtuse chord patterns, however, are entwined with enough hooky moments to make the songs stick. Food for Worms sees Shame confidently embrace their flaws and resign themselves to the messy, beautiful chaos of their live shows. It’s all captured within this bedhead of a record.