FATCAT RECORDS – 19th January 2018
Reasons to love Shopping:
Just listen to that deep, rounded and steady post-punk bassline on The Hype (the opener)
Songs never outstay their welcome
The danciest band on the circuit
Shopping get a lot of word-of-mouth about being flag-bearers of Queer rights but they’re never preachy lyrically; more an allusive bolshie attitude from an individual humanist perspective. They’re not afraid to comment but they don’t tell you what to think. The band pick up a wonderfully diverse audience and gigs are jiggy dance-fests, led by Rachel Aggs bouncing up front (after bouncing through the support bands too). I’ve seen them three times and each is half an hour of joy.
Channelling a post-punk aesthetic last heard in Leeds’ Delta Five, Shopping have an enhanced sense of melody, rolling out catchy chorus lines atop beautifully funky rhythms. Simplicity does a lot for it. A three-piece never gets crowded. Drums and bass knit together like the fingers of two hands and guitar is jittery or high, echoey and clear, with new elements of the sound of dub reggae.
So this is a new album – what’s to note? There’s not a huge departure, though the sound is even clearer and discrete parts reach the ears distinctly. That may be due to the production by the legendary Edwyn Collins. Billy Easter’s bass runs deep and pure through this set. Bits of synth sound surface. Andrew Milk does a spot more call and response from behind his drum kit and conjures up memories of the Gang Of Four (to those old enough to remember, i.e. me). Songs like Control Yourself play on the theme of the album title: the “official body”; the body dictated to us as “normal” by the state, the media, etc. Control yourself, don’t run wild and free. Other songs pick at the demand for conformity and standardisation on the individual. If that doesn’t sound like fun, your feet will tell you otherwise. As ever, I find myself jigging to this, even when sat down.
They explore ideas like the construction of Queer identity, the need to live according to the role defined for you, the challenges in wanting to conform to your tribe yet be a fractured and real individual, full of human contradictions. It’s the dichotomy between the hedonistic culture presented by the most visible Pride participants contrasted with the fact that the humans involved have to go and buy cereal and other mundane activities.
I love that this is a dance band that is comfortable to use words like paradigm and active in forcing new agendas while dancing. As Emma Goldman is claimed to have said: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution”. *
* She actually wrote: “I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy.” **
** The quote she should be remembered for is: “The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.”