Punky and Funky
From the opening measures of Shopping’s debut LP, Consumer Complaints, it is clear that the London band is not trying to re-invent the wheel. “Any Answers” has a frenetic guitar riff that is heavy on the treble and staccato while being buoyed by a bouncy, boing-ing bass line; this is clearly the sort of danceable-yet-spastic Anglo post-punk which has been revived again and again in each decade since the 1980’s. From proto-post-punk masters like Wire and Gang of Four, to more recent pop-oriented retreads such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, it would seem as if every corner of the genre had already been explored to its furthest extent.
Surprisingly, Shopping are still able to extract a few choice nuggets from the depths of this seemingly-endless musical mine. With highlights such as “Moyet’s Voice,” “Long Way Home,” “Right Now,” and “Santa Monica Place,” Consumer Complaints is solid and exciting, if somewhat-forgettable. What sets Shopping apart from many of its glossily-produced, metronomic peers is the band’s keen eye towards American punk sounds. There are bits of Q and Not U’s angular post-hardcore, Mika Miko’s throaty shout-along tag-team vocals and The Minutemen’s inherent funkiness jammed into the otherwise classic UK sound. Self-released in 2013, Consumer Complaints finally hits the United States’ shores this month via Milk Records.
“Santa Monica Place” is one particular track that perfectly amalgamates the band’s British background with their American influences. The guitar riffs have just a tinge of surfy bop that sounds like one of the many retro-revival bands from California, and they are well-complemented by the raw production quality. Alongside the back-and-forth tandem vocals of members Billy Easter, Andrew Milk, and Rachel Aggs, the song is a perfect crossover of gloomy lyrical themes and peppy instrumental work.
Easily the best song on the album, “Long Way Home” stands directly at the center of Consumer Complaints, a powerfully memorable flagpole among the solid-but-not-amazing tracks that surround it. The bass line menacingly descends down the scales in a manner that creates a striking dynamic with the vocal melody. After a few moments the guitar strikes intermittently between the bass thuds and snare cracks, creating that perfect post-punk rhythm ala “Damaged Goods,” “Banquet,” “Obstacle 1” – classic songs which “Long Way Home” belongs with in the pantheon of post-punk.
While post-punk has a strong history of socio-political observation and much of the Shopping’s aesthetic fits in with this tradition (down to the album title, which suggests a treatise of grievances), the members insist they are not an overtly political band. While there is no specific political agenda decided by the band members, there is clearly a message they seek to share. While the message may be delivered with an exuberantly youthful gusto, it’s not all good news.