After two well-received albums over the last four years, (2013’s Consumer Complaints and 2015’s Why Choose), Shopping return with The Official Body, which sees the band enlist legend Edwyn Collins on production duties (the term ‘legend’ is over-used these days, but, well, Edwyn Collins is definitely one).
The three-piece, who count Sacred Paws/Trash Kit‘s Rachel Aggs among their number, trade (pun intended) in an uncompromisingly political brand of post-punk, Fall-like repetitive drums and bass complimented by minimal guitar and synth lines and Aggs’ vocals.
‘The Hype’ sets the blueprint for the record, beginning with a PiL-style rumbling, foreboding bass and drums before a female / male vocal interplay takes over: “What they teach us / Procrastination / What they teach us / Indecision”. This is clearly not going to be an easy ride.
The currently unsettling backdrop of Brexit and Trump et al has its fingerprints all over The Official Body, Aggs declaring “We’ve always felt like what we do is political in that it’s cathartic and healing in some way, but at some point it just felt like making ‘political’ music was a bit like putting a tiny band aid on an enormous wound.” The album’s title itself is a play on the idea of official bodies of power and control as well as the construct of a physical body that fits within the societal paradigm of what is ‘acceptable.’
‘Shave Your Head’ has an insistent guitar line running through it; like much of the album, it’s lines rather than chords, efficient and punchy with plenty of breathing space. It’s an uncluttered and ‘live’ sounding album, which is an Edwyn Collins production trademark (see Robert Forster‘s Warm Nights, which also fairly jumps out of the speakers).
The uncompromising words and music bring to mind ’90s fellow post-punk outfit Prolapse, especially on the uptempo ‘Wild Child’. There is humour here, but it is quite well-hidden at times, and although there is a clear identity and feel to the record, sometimes it might be nice to have a little light coming through the relentless shade.
‘New Values’, meanwhile, Is punctuated by a fabulously squelchy synth, and an early New Order-style melancholic melodica; it’s a lot more grey Movement than sunny Republic, to extend the comparison with Salford’s finest.
Closing track ‘Overtime’ is potentially the strongest on the album and offers a grain of hope in its repeated refrain of “I think I’ve found a way out.” The band let go a little, ending on a high note.
The Official Body is pretty timeless in its feel – it would be hard to pin it down to a year or even era if listened to in isolation – many of its lyrics would have been just as fitting against the politically dark times of the mid-80s as the troubled times we live in today.
The Official Body is released on FatCat Records on 19th January 2018.