19. Songs of Praise - Shame (Dead Oceans)
I felt like I was having an out of body experience.
For as long as I can remember, I've arrived early at gigs, found a place near the front of the stage and tried to stay rooted there until the house lights go on about three hours later.
The night I saw Shame though, I couldn't shake off the sheer shittiness of the day, so I slipped into the relative luxury (okay, there were seats ), of the balcony.
That's when the out of body experience began. I looked at the space where I usually stand as if I was floating above my own life, I was present but felt absent at the same time.
Within minutes of arriving on stage, vocalist Charlie Steen has leapt into the crowd, which seems a little too keen. A few songs into the set he removes his shirt and starts to slouch foward, grabbing on to the mic stand like Iggy Pop. He bellows at the crowd 'you people are beautiful' (which from my lofty space I can't verify), drinks are swigged and then thrown over the crowd and bass player Josh Finerty leaps from the drum rise, and then does it again, and again, and...is more Bruce Foxton than Nicky Wire in his leaping antics.
Maybe if I was down in the mad throng I'd bw lapping it up, but as I float on high I realize that one of the skills of the rock/pop gig is to make all of the theatrical antics seem spontaneous and that Shame look a little too studied.
This is also true of their debut album 'Songs of Praise', where sturdy, swaggering riffs seem to have a whiff of familiarity to them. The best of the brattish lyrics have a punk like sneer to them, the chorus to the glorious single 'One Rizla' offers the delighful: “My voice ain’t the best you’ve heard / And you can choose to hate my words / But do I give a fuck?”
There are some imposing and dark moments on the album (the surreal monologue of 'The Lick', the ugly liason of 'Gold Hole'). All of them indicating that Shame have the potential to be a truly inventive and inspiring band.
And that's what, ultimately. Is so compelling about Shame. From my balcony I can see a passionate and powerful presence that I pray doesn't get pissed away. They are, hopefully, a great band in the making.
18 Goat Girl - Goat Girl (Rough Trade)
Any band whose name is inspired by a Bill Hicks character (the sexually graphic thoughts of Goat Boy had the power to shock his most open minded fans), is going to grab my attention.
And Goat Girl do not disappoint. l see a city filled with filthy fakes, creeps on trains and one man who appears to have neither a brain or a heart.
Their fuzzy, messy guitars, hooky bass lines and smart, snarky, sarcastic and vocals are a glorious combination. The lusty 'The Man' is one of the years greatest singles.
Their debut album s far more than just another indie band commiting their repertoire to disc (see above for an example of that!). The handful of delightfully odd instrumentals add to the murky unease of the album. And then it all ends with a woozy reinterpretation of 'Tomorrow' from the Bugsy Malone soundtrack. This is a brilliant, bold and uncompromising debut.