Rachel Aggs has had a good 2019, releasing brilliant albums with Trash Kit and Sacred Paws. She now returns to Shopping for their fourth album, All or Nothing. As the band are now split between LA and Glasgow it meant they had to find time when they could get together. The album came out of an intensive two week writing and recording sesh. Expect their usual bold, post-punk sound, but this time with added pop sensibilities.
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‘It’s constant, the feeling.’ That’s a lyric from ‘For Your Pleasure’, a key cut on Shopping’s fourth LP ‘All Or Nothing’. It’s also pretty much the band’s entire aesthetic distilled into four words - terse, tightly-wound, anxiety and nervousness and longing and a bit of fear all bound up in one succinct phrase.
Much will be made of Shopping’s sonic evolution between 2017’s ‘The Official Body’ and ‘All Or Nothing’. For a guitar-bass-drums group who’ve made their name pedalling top-button-done-up punk-funk in the vein of Delta 5, the frequent inclusion of synthesizers and notably cleaner production across this record could be read as a move towards the popsphere. Sure, there is pop in this record - the mixes are richer, more expensive-sounding, and some of the songcraft and vocal lines display more honed compositional nous than the wind-‘em-up-and-watch-'em-go numbers that characterised records like 'Why Choose'.
However, my reading of it is that Shopping are doing something much more arch here than simply mining for hooks. Consider what remains of the band’s sound of old: enigmatic lyrics which churn up newspeak, business jargon, advertising lingo (not a world away from Thom Yorke, that); pinched vocals that come off like the strained inner-monologue of a cubicle worker; ticking grooves which nag away at you as if representative of some constant, unstoppable forward-motion - quite possibly that of capital. The keyboards in its chorus may allow ‘Initiative’ to bloom (though is it freedom or neurosis that flowers here?), but the overall feeling remains one of clocking in and clocking out as some neutral overseer asks you again and again to ‘show some initiative’. Within this context the synthetic blurs that power ‘Lies and ‘All Or Nothing’ come off more like what Devo were doing around the time of ‘Freedom Of Choice’ - they borrow from pop but do not become it, framing and skewering it with its own tricks. Andy Gill, rest his soul, would be proud.
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