Post-punk may as well be one of the few lingering genres that actively bridge old and new through the most engaging and strident methods attainable. The tightly-coiled basslines, unbendable rhythmic power, and decades-long minimalist streak never fall short of skillful and knotty songsmith. In the eyes of Shopping, London’s 21st century reincarnate for old stagers like Public Image Ltd and This Heat, post-punk is what dictates their limber pulse and calibrates even the most stingy of their melodies. Professedly accepting the relatively harmless allegation of wearing their influences on their sleeve, the trio retaliates with a breed of dance-friendly, expressionless rock music for audiences of all temperments to admire.
On their third full-length album, The Official Body, Shopping meander through a funk-inspired core with political overtones lagging behind their elastic beats. In its 31-minute duration, the ten snappy numbers successfully intertwine the decompressed urgency of Wire’s Pink Flag with the nihilistic, anti-everything rhetoric bubbling up in today’s youth. There’s a traceable gimmick for each track: de facto frontwoman Rachel Aggs’ barbed and repetitive guitar licks in the spotlight, Andrew Milk’s clear drum exercises chugging faithfully behind, and the band’s apparent propelling force, Billy Easter’s stout basslines holding it all together. Occasionally giving in to alternate means of expending their stockpiled energy, the band taps into playful vocal duality between Aggs and Milk as well as embellishing their otherwise frank compositions with buzzing synthesizer hooks à la Killing Joke. For the most part,The Official Body abides by careful restraints to make its directives transparent to the audience and its energized messages resounding with each listen.
Speaking to Bandcamp about these motivations, Aggs conceded, “As a band, it’s really important for us to laugh, and have fun, and to be really silly—that, in itself, is a defiant act.” While Shopping’s closefisted instrumentation often curbs their potential for aggressive defiance, it’s not misguided to label The Official Body as a protest record even if its arrangements cut back rather than climax. The Liquid Liquid akin dance-punk of “Discover” and “New Values” are captivating exceptions to their unswerving technique. Jarring opener “The Hype” kicks the album off with a midtempo stomp while simultaneously leading a youth revolt against classroom conformity and corporal discipline. Treading into empowering territory, “Suddenly Gone” claps back at the society’s inflexibility of acceptance toward queer artists and artists of color. It’s an uphill effort to classify these topics as easy to swallow, but the band’s artful approach channels these frustrations into sophisticated songs of discontent.
While it’s amusing to see bands like Shopping taking the piss and scrutinizing humanity’s regressive traits in the same song, The Official Body inevitably encapsulates our tendencies as members of an imperfect society to guise our anxieties with seemingly convincing façades. “You have a chance to lead the group,” Milk even suggests in the bustling midpoint “Shave Your Head,” advising the listener “it’s not forever” and it “doesn’t matter.” “My Dad’s a Dancer” further disavows a desire to follow a crowd of lurking bigotry with Aggs’ taunting unseen enemies in the pursuit of adversity (“Taking up another space / Do you deserve this? / You wanna take my place?”). It goes to show that in The Official Body, laughter is not only the best medicine against societal ills but a mechanism denying them victory. Shopping deconstructs these uncertain times ushered by one’s individual obligation to confide in their own beliefs instead of falling in line with an antithetical mankind.