Tough Age delivers the opening ninety-nine instrumental seconds of their new album Shame with nonchalant confidence. The Toronto-based self-proclaimed ‘not really punk at all’ band claims your attention immediately, then delivers their get-up-and-go music for thirty-two minutes.
The instrumentally driven second track “Piquant Frieze” builds momentum that is carried through the a-side of Shame. The addictively tormenting “Me In Glue” features a prominent guitar line and Penny Clark’s haunting vocals. Clark leaves us with a catchy refrain that will be muttered unconsciously under your breath for days to come, annoying your roommates and thoroughly freaking out anybody sitting near you on a bus.
When the sudden tone shift of “Pageantry” hits, the album takes a chilling break from pop punk with a full force collision. The song benefits from a slower tempo and subtle layering, an uncommon stylistic shift that Tough Age pull off with poise. The thematic shift is short-lived, however, and by the time we reach the closing track “Shame” Tough Age has returned with intensity.
The album’s finale makes up more than a third of the total run time. Containing several transitions reminiscent of the album’s earlier tone, “Shame” settles into a four-minute long nerve-fraying soundtrack of a horror movie circus clown. Complete with feedback, discordant string work and low inhuman rumbling, the album is put to rest with a sense confusion and curiosity that necessitates flipping the record over for another listen.