by Julie Smitka (@julieksmitka)
To read of a DIY band described as having created an irresistibly danceable yet distinctive 70s post-punk sound and as incorporating forthright and neatly understated thoughts on queer politics into their songwriting (while avoiding the restrictive label of “political band”) may seem to read as a ploying press release, claiming too much and encompassing enough buzzwords to make it into your brain, or at least into an algorithm. But Shopping don’t employ these choices as gimmicks. On The Official Body, Shopping remain vibrant and succinct in conveying their frustrations for the sake of solidarity and expression, and they prioritize having fun while doing it.
The London trio had written and performed together as Covergirl before releasing Shopping’s debut album Consumer Complaints in 2013 on Mïlk Records, the group’s own label. After hand-delivering a thousand copies to UK stores within months, they signed on to FatCat Records for 2015’s Why Choose and the re-release of their debut to a wider audience. Three years later, The Official Body reflects on frustration and confusion with an underlying optimism, perhaps when it’s needed the most.
On opening track “The Hype,” Andrew Milk (drums), Billy Easter (bass), and Rachel Aggs (guitar), return with a bass-driven message against the procrastination and indecision encouraged by media outlets. Their vocals progress from alternating to overlapping, mimicking the pattern of a casual conversation among like-minded peers. Because of this intimacy, Shopping’s blunt statements never strike as hostile or demanding; their warnings of apathy on “The Hype,” “Shave Your Head,” and “Control Yourself” are ultimately delivered with the warmth of a friend who wants others to think for themselves.
“Wild Child” ventures from their prior minimalism with notable additions of synth bass and drum pads, and fittingly so with Aggs singing “Just when you think you’ve seen it all/I don’t think you’ve heard it all.” They reappear on “Discover” and “New Values,” coincidentally showcasing their presence as new assets for the band. It’s not surprising that Shopping are consistently upbeat, but their talent for maintaining this while evoking the sharp poignancy of otherness on “My Dad’s A Dancer” is astounding. The chorus “Different place/Always in a different place” builds an isolation that peaks at “No one even gets the joke” and quickly shifts from gutted alienation to cathartic laughter: “It goes ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”