Shopping’s most recent album, The Official Body, is undoubtedly punk. This is the band’s second album under FatCat Records — a transition that has transformed the London band’s sound from the DIY recordings previously released by members Andrew Milk and Billy Easter’s MILK label back in 2013, to the fully-fledged, bass-ripping, gyrate-worthy tracks from their newest album.
The album consistently delves into darker themes, but the trio’s cheeky twists to each of their songs keeps the album lighthearted and reminiscent of the disco tracks of the ‘70s, at first listen. The fast and rushing melody of the cleverly named “My Dad’s A Dancer” easily lends itself to enthusiastic sing-alongs, but as lead singer Rachel Agg’s crass yelling of “ha ha ha” and “la la la” comes out flat against the dance-worthy beats, a glimpse of the serious nature of some of the album’s subjects come to light. The Official Body is — first and foremost — a 32-minute, 10-track party, but that doesn’t hinder the band’s ability to face social issues head-on in their lyrics. At many times, it’s this seemingly off-kilter clash of concepts that provides the album its charm.
The way Shopping creates this wormhole of lose-your-mind dancing vibes shows how this band truly captures the spirit of modern punk. While feeling the punchy beats and the head-thrashing catchiness of “Suddenly Gone,” it’s easy to get swept away in the sound, but with a second listen, the song has more to unwrap.
Since their first album, Shopping brings a voice to underrepresented members in the genre. In an interview with M Magazine, Aggs said “Suddenly Gone” adresses how the mainstream has commodified certain identities, but “there’s also, counter to this faddish thing, a genuine community of people of colour making indie or punk music that are connecting with each other. So, that’s really positive and powerful. (‘Suddenly Gone’) is just about ‘Imagine if one day we all just gave up.’ So much music is based on the work of African American musicians. If they all just vanished or had never existed, where would we be?”
Shopping exists within a politically charged climate. After Consumer Complaints and Why Choose, an album like The Official Body is expected and welcomed from a band such as Shopping. But as the album wraps up with “Overtime,” something just doesn’t stick. For a group that has consistently and boldly created content that fearlessly tackles issues surrounding gender identity, politics and sexuality, The Official Body’s poingancey doesn’t linger much after the tracks fade.
What the album lacks is a fresh perspective on what’s going in the world today. The band’s central focus is to bring upbeat music to their albums, but it’s this focus that distracts from its lyrics. While this is an intentional artistic decision made by the band, at second and third listen, these tracks more often offer angst rather than new ideas or insights.
It’s not that Shopping’s music always needs to be overtly specific in its political messages. Vague lyrics can be timeless. It was this quality of the Beatles’ music that makes so much of its discography still relevant in the mainstream. But with The Official Body, Shopping isn’t giving its listeners anything they haven’t heard before. Although the musicality of this most recent album shows the group’s instrumental growth, a slight shift in musical styling doesn’t add much more to the evolution of Shopping’s discography.
Even though the album is unfocused in message, it’s in the very nature of punk music to play with sound and expression — a defining strength of Shopping since its debut album. While The Official Body isn’t a revolutionary work of post-punk production, it’s still a great album for getting your groove on.