SHOPPING are one of London’s more intriguing guitar groups, with their slim catalogue to date – 2013’s full length ‘Consumer Complaints’ and 2015’s follow up ‘Why Choose’ – providing no end of wiry post-punk thrills with a side order of political and social commentary.
New album ‘The Official Body’ was spurred by a number of changes both inside and outside the band. Drummer Andrew Milk relocated to Glasgow, limiting the trio’s opportunities to work together, while a shift in the political climate cast a dark shadow over much of the Western world.
Written in snippets, the sessions for ‘The Official Body’ found SHOPPING delving ever-inward. It’s a record of subtle transition, with that post-punk sound – think The Slits, The Raincoats, Maximum Joy – augmented by some neat twists and turns.
Recorded in the Scottish Highlands with Edwyn Collins at the controls, ‘The Official Body’ is dosed in a real sense of confidence, combining with the innate playfulness that makes SHOPPING so wonderfully addictive.
Opening track ‘The Hype’ is rooted in that bass-line spasm, drums and guitar working together as percussive instruments while the vocal – half-spoken, half-chanted – circles round like a hawk.
‘Wild Child’ is a masterpiece in miniature, a taut, caustic dollop of moody DIY pop. ‘Shave Your Head’ neatly riffs on identity, while ‘Control Yourself’ is an exercise in control, the lurid opening segment descending into shattered guitar lines and that never-ending drumbeat, part Krautrock and part D-beat.
It’s the unexpected sonic flourishes which makes ‘The Official Body’ such a fascinating aural feast. Adding elements of synth, the bulging digital low-end that propels ‘Discover’ and the martial electronics that underpin ‘New Values’ shift SHOPPING’s sound in entrancing ways.
Lyrically, the group delve deeper than ever. Spurred on by the blackening political climate, SHOPPING explore the relationship between the constructs of power and the self, ‘The Official Body’ playfully linking the two.
‘Suddenly Gone’ delves into feelings of being undervalued as a queer and/or person of colour making music or art, for example, while ‘Wild Child’ utilises elements of drag culture to pick apart the push/pull of wearing a façade to navigate the world.
An itchy, infectious return, ‘The Official Body’ presents puzzles without solutions, a never-ending maze that pulls you sharply around it each corner. A dazzlingly creative effort, it might well be SHOPPING’s most complete, concise, and fascinating release yet.
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