By Gareth Watkins
If you come out the gate comparing yourself to iconic bands like The Slits and Gang of Four, prepare yourself from some industrial-grade scepticism. The iconic post-punk acts of the early-to-mid ‘80s spent much of the early 21st century being trotted out by the music press as largely empty references to the last time the country produced music that was self-consciously arty, prior to commercial Britpop’s put-on ‘I’m a pwopah lad, me’ populism. Shopping, three Londoners signed to Mint Records, might just be the real deal though.
Their bass-work is as dextrous as one would expect, but it’s the guitar work that shines here (at least until the vocals kick in… more on that later). Whereas Gang of Four had their spectral, stop-start guitar lines, Shopping have lush, tropical, reverb-soaked licks that rob the songs of amphetamine-induced menace and replace it with the sounds of elevator music from J. G. Ballard’s High Rise novel. And it works. Later-album track “Santa Monica Place” is practically surf-rock while quiet mid-album anti-work moment “For Your Money” could prevent a lot of those dramatic “You can’t fire me! I quit!” moments if office-drones used it as an alarm clock.
The drum work is genre-standard, highly compressed disco shuffling. The vocals are high in the mix and nobody involved has a traditionally “good” voice, which will alienate people unfamiliar with post-punk. In fact, the record itself, from sleeve artwork down, is a loving tribute to a sound that is easy to copy but hard to move forward. The test for Shopping will be whether they can deliver on the potential that they show here by doing something with the post-punk formula that nobody has seen before.