Charlie Steen Details Each Track on Shame’s Rousing New LP “Drunk Tank Pink”

The lyricist walks us through the post-punk band’s second album, out now via Dead Oceans.

The phrase “drunk tank pink” that Shame take the name of their new album from refers to the shade of paint used to pacify inhabitants of European jails who were picked up for disorderly conduct while inebriated. It’s also the color of the closet-sized apartment frontman Charlie Steen shared with guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith—though, in the context of their new album, I imagine it’s a more metaphorical usage, one referring to the reeling in of the group’s chaotic tendencies.

The result of (per Steen) “a bath and a good night’s sleep,” Drunk Tank Pink continues the rousing tradition of the Shame project by relying on heavy experimentalism rather than the relentless punk that fueled 2018’s preceding Songs of Praise. While more grounded than the chic, Black Midi-fied post-punk of fellow English acts like Black Country, New Road and Squid, DTP sounds like the work of a band who’s fed up with the constraints of genre.

With the LP dropping today, we reached out to the band for a behind-the-scenes look at each track on the project, detailing themes ranging from “the beauty of all canines” to  “lust and puppets.” Stream the record in full below, and read on for what Steen had to say.

1. “Alphabet”

A direct question to the audience and the performer as to whether any of this will ever be enough to reach satisfaction. 

2. “Nigel Hitter”

This song focuses on daily routine, the motions we go through, and how extraordinary all this seemed to me after coming home from touring.

3. “Born in Luton”

“Born in Luton” is about being locked outside a flat. It exaggerates the mundane and makes it into something unique and overtly dramatic.

4. “March Day”

This is about my consistent unwillingness to wake up on time—my obsession and devotion to my bed and my bedroom. 

5. “Water in the Well”

Over the last few years we’ve been consistently inspired by the people we’ve met and the places we’ve been. All these locations and characters have an effect on us and seep their way into this song, including “Acid Dad,” the name of the person who runs Dewar Farm in which we wrote a lot of DTP

6. “Snow Day”

A lot of this album focuses on the subconscious and dreams, this song being the pivotal moment of these themes. A song about love that is lost and the comfort and displeasure that comes after you close your eyes, fall into sleep, and are forced to confront yourself.

7. “Human, for a Minute”

The first song we wrote after Songs of Praise, the main focus being on a relationship slipping away and the discovery of my own identity through this collapse. 

8. “Great Dog”

One of the first ones we got down in Dewar Farm for DTP, a nonsense song about the perks of thievery and the beauty of all canines. 

9. “6/1”

An intense evaluation of myself, exploiting my flaws, fears, and narcissism. 

10. “Harsh Degrees”

A song of lust and puppets. 

11. “Station Wagon”

A final conversation with myself and an ode to the great Sir Elton John at the end.

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