Release Date: Jan 19, 2018
Record label: FatCat Records
Shopping's brand of post-punk has only grown more potent with each album, and The Official Body is no exception. Rachel Aggs, Billy Easter, and Andrew Milk sound more assured than ever, and more danceable, too. Working with producer Edwyn Collins, they slow their often frantic pace down just enough to show off the formidable grooves on songs like "The Hype." A perfect example of Shopping at their finest, it pits the rhythm section's slinky foundation against Aggs' needling guitar lines while chants of "procrastination" and "last chance" wage war with each other.
In a world where our nuclear demise could come as a result of a tweet, it feels pretty safe to say that one song, one album or even one band isn’t going to do much to alter the cataclysmic state of the current political landscape. Rachel Aggs, vox and guitar for the London post-punk trio Shopping, was left contemplating this same concept post-Brexit as the band was heading into the studio to cut their follow-up to Why Choose (2015). “We’ve always felt like what we do is political in that it’s cathartic and healing in some way,” explained Aggs in a press release, “but at some point it just felt like making ‘political’ music was a bit like putting a tiny Band-Aid on an enormous wound.
Shopping’s whole thing could not be more antithetical to their name. And yet, since their formation in 2012, the English post-punk trio have adamantly refuted claims that their music intentionally broadcasts a political dogma. Any commentary, they insisted, was simply a reflection of what was on their minds, not an attempt at proselytizing. “We are slaves to the system, so we have to write our frustrations down when we make this music,” drummer Andrew Milk explained to Stereogum in 2015.
It’s been over 30 years since post-punk had its heyday, but the genre – or, more accurately, its modern iterations – is still going strong. One band keeping the fire and spirit alive is Shopping, a trio fronted by Rachel Aggs of Trash Kit and Sacred Paws who were previously based in London until drummer Andrew Milk relocated to Glasgow. Yet it seems that distance has only served to strengthen the band (completed by bassist Billy Easter), given that this third full-length is their sharpest, most accomplished effort to date. Produced by Edwyn Collins, it’s full of immediately infectious tracks that burrow deep into your head before working their way down to your limbs.
For over five years, Shopping have quietly been one of the UK’s most vital bands. Deeply involved in the queer/DIY-punk scene in London (and now, also Glasgow, where drummer Andrew Milk now takes residence) their brand of ESG-inspired post-punk their consistently solid output over two albums - 2013’s excellent Consumer Complaints and 2015 follow-up Why Choose? - saw them rewarded with a deal with FatCat Records and a tour of the US. Ironically, it is lead guitarist/vocalist Rachel Aggs’ other band, the (mostly) Glasgow-based Sacred Paws, that has finally seen some wider acknowledgement to her talent as a songwriter and guitarist, as a thoroughly deserving winner for last year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award for Strike a Match.
With their near-trademark sparse rhythmic urgency, Shopping are the beating heart of London's DIY scene in more ways than one. Marred by the closing of Power Lunches— the DIY hub wherein all their previous work had been written— and the relocation of drummer Andrew Milk, The Official Body was no doubt an album that forced Shopping to reconsider the dynamics of the band. And yet, it's a record that acts as a concise encapsulation of the band's sound: the rhythmic urgency, the sparse production (courtesy of Orange Juice's Edwyn Collins), the narrow guitar interplay; "The Official Body" plays a perfect post-punk blueprint at breakneck speed, to great effect.
It’s difficult to be a punk band in 2018 that doesn’t have a hint of political catharsis. Shopping understand this, but don’t attempt to have all the answers. It’s “like putting a tiny band aid on an enormous wound,” explains guitarist/vocalist Rachel Aggs. To keep things light, the band smartly project a persona that’s flamboyant and fun.
When London punks Shopping shared the first taster of their third album ‘The Official Body’ back in September – slinking tune ‘The Hype’ – singer Rachel Aggs said the song was “a wake up call”. She implored the trio’s fans to “always question what’s presented to you, and don’t just sit around and think about making change before it’s too late,” then added, “It’s also a party song!” That’s a lot of bang for your buck. The album as a whole hammers home these sentiments, offering up a rebellious mindset beneath lashings of punk-funk.
True to their name, UK post-punk group Shopping has a fixation with economy. Between guitarist Rachel Aggs's clean, precise leads and Andrew Milk's regimented drum patterns, the group's playing style is tight to the point of fussiness. Despite frequent comparisons to the Slits and Gang of Four, it's hard to imagine the trio recording with either band's messy, thrilling spontaneity. This mannered approach divides the band's third album against itself.
You could bounce a quarter off the bass lines in this third Shopping full-length. They're pulled hard and tight against minimalist syncopated drums, the leaning, waiting, anticipating space between the thwacks as important a character as the beats themselves. The London-based trio harks back to the funky, stripped down post-punk of bands like ESG and Delta 5, with hints of the boy-girl bubble and pop of the B-52s and Pylon.
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.