Canadian indie outfit Tough Age alter their formula on record number three, leaning deeper into elements of post-punk and the quirky melodicism of Flying Nun-inspired guitar pop while leaving behind much of the '60s-indebted garage affectations of earlier releases. Slimmed down to a trio and now calling Toronto home, former Vancouverites Jarrett Samson (vocals/guitar) and Penny Clark (vocals/bass) hooked up with drummer Jesse Locke in search of a sound that was more minimalist and dynamic. Having signed with Mint Records just prior to their debut, Shame is Tough Age's third outing with the label and their first working with Montreal-based producer/engineer Peter Woodford (Freelove Fenner), whose all-analog Bottle Garden studio was elemental in facilitating their leaner approach. No less scrappy than before, Shame finds Tough Age in wiry attack mode as they open with "Everyday Life," a strangely mesmerizing and largely instrumental track whose lone refrain of "He's like you, what will you dream of now?" is bordered on both sides by rugged coasts of melodic sharp-edged guitar work from Samson. The juxtaposing mix of tunefulness and tough economic playing continues throughout the LP, from the jagged standout "Piquant Frieze" to the sprawling ten-minute title cut, which closes the album before devolving into a lengthy spray of experimental feedback and amp buzz. Formerly on guitar, Clark is now the band's bassist, and she reprises her role as co-leader, singing lead on the churning "Me in Glue" and the noir-ish "Ghost." Overall, Tough Age's sonic transformation seems to suit them, and they wield their newfound might with considerable attitude.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger