Since the early part of this decade, Shopping have established themselves as the one of the most unexpected bands on the planet – a trio that is making post-punk danceable. Call it disco-punk if you will, but whatever the categorization their music is contagious musically and extremely witty lyrically. Their debut album, Consumer Complaints, introduced the world to their jittery broodiness while Why Choose was an immensely sharp, political record. Now arrives The Official Body, and it retains Shopping’s energetic and probing style. This time, however, they’re leading the charge for social change.
“We never had the truth / We read the sign”, the band utters on the gripping “New Values”, which encapsulates the LP’s thematic focus and the band’s darker and more rhythmic and sinister approach. The song in words and sound perfectly illustrates the bizarre and ghastly times in which we live. Equally entrancing is “Suddenly Gone”, a post-industrial / post-punk number that is highlighted by Rachel Aggs’ hallow guitar lines and her words that would seem to describe a “payment-for-services” transaction. In this day and age, everything is for sale.
Aggs’ vocals take on a bewitching tone on the loopy and creepy “Discover”, which describes how people have become increasingly isolated from one another. As her voice hovers in the foreground, Andrew Milk whispers in the background, “I’m fine”, and the comment reflects the self-denial many of us have in spending another night alone. Early U2 (when the band was good), meanwhile, filters through the hypnotic stuttering of “Shave Your Head”, which tackles people’s pursuit of the commercial appeal. As Milk clearly articulates:
“Did you get the latest issue?
You’re on the cover, can you recover?
Be unique, among the few.
You’re losing colour,
That empty space
Nothing to lose.
You’re just a number
It doesn’t matter.
Save your face
Or get a new one soon.
I cannot tell you apart.”
Scoured between the darker tones are Shopping’s trademark playful quirkiness. Opener and album lead “The Hype” is dance-floor goodness, as Easter’s bass infuses some funk while Aggs’ guitar springs jittery yet infectious riffs. While the song may be about how overvalued some people are, this tune epitomizes Shopping’s underappreciated contributions to post-punk. New wave synths are incorporated on the equally catchy and shoulder shimmying “Wild Child”. Lyrically, the band celebrates and even resurrects the flower power of the late ’60s and early ’70s, and they call on people to get rid of their constraints (“melt down your wedding ring”) and find their freedom.
On the Joy Division-esque and toe-tapping “Asking For A Friend”, the band take a slight turn by sharing a more personal number. As Easter’s fantastic bass line soars in the foreground, Aggs sings about the difficulties of getting through each day and understanding her own needs. She achingly expresses her inner turmoil through the following lines:
“Why is it so hard to know what I need?
Why is it never enough to satisfy me?”
The energy reaches another level as do Shopping’s tongue-in-cheek approach on “My Dad’s A Dancer”. Possibly channeling her father’s (and likely any older person’s) “I-don’t-give-two-fucks” attitude, Aggs tackles the dumbing down of the world and how the joke is on everyone else. She assertively says:
“Maybe it’s the way I talk.
I speak clearly.
Should I simplify?
It’s funny because you know it’s true.
I say, ‘Ha ha ha ha.'”
Shopping’s third album, however, is no joke. While the record is immensely amusing and often exhilarating. Billy Easter (bass), Andrew Milk (drums/vocals), and Rachel Aggs (lead vocals/guitar) continue to position themselves as one of the most important voices of reason and change. They just deliver their message in a different way, where they allow us to have our cake and eat it, too. That is, to have some fun in the process and dance our problems away for a moment. Every generation needs a band that energizes and motivates us in multiple ways, and for us that band is Shopping.
The Official Body is out now via FatCat Records, and it can be purchased on Bandcamp and the usual places. Shopping is heading out on tour starting February 1st in Glasgow, and then they’ll make their way stateside in March and have one Canadian stop (March 30th in Toronto). Dates and information are available here.
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