By JENNIFER KELLY
“Buy something want something/want something need something/need something want something,” Shopping’s “Theme” inscribes a taut circle of consumer anticipation, satisfaction and disappointment in strident stabs of guitar and yelps of female agitation. It’s 1977 all over again, and also 2013 when this album originally appeared on drummer Andrew Milk’s own Milk Records. But it’s also right now, when the hollowed out shell of wide-screen TVs and big-assed SUVs has come crashing down on the heads of a scrabbling middle class. It’s time, why not, for Shopping’s angsty, jittery rallying cries, which bounds in random, off-kilter hops and stops across a denuded landscape of post-punk minimalism.
Shopping’s sound is defined by rumbling, half-cocked basslines that run belligerently into irregular slashes of guitar, by thumping four-on-four drums and trebling, trilling Slits-ish girl vocals. Songs are stretched as tight as drumheads over these spare elements, so that even the white space between notes seemed weighted with anxiety and tension. And yet, sure, there’s a sense of fun, too, of ESG’s out-of-balance dance party, churning on in bursts of shorted-out electricity from a rigged street pole near an abandoned lot. You may get a whiff of Fire Engines, too, long, rickety “We Say You Pay,” which seems like it’s going to be an instrumental until the three principals start gleefully trading, “Blah blah blah blah blahs” and “Shut ups” over the racket.
Shopping shares a bass player, Billy Easter, with Wetdog, and you could easily mix the two up on random play. They have the same heedless, irregular momentum, the same giddy deconstruction of pop into its component pieces. Shopping has the harder, more definite edge, with sharp, jagged melodic bits rattling around like quarters in a tip jar. The three piece — that’s Milk, Easter and Rachel Aggs on guitar — takes a defiant, less fanciful stand, though they go a bit dreamy on “For Your Money” (sung by Milk for a bit of a change-up) and nearly dubby on “Hard As Nails.”
I’m guessing that Shopping is referencing Alison Moyet of Yazoo in “Moyet’s Voice,” and while you could hardly pick a more dissimilar sounding artist, Moyet did struggle mightily to take charge of her music. Let’s hope it’s easier for Shopping, here and now, to be who they are and to follow the singular, stop-start groove wherever it goes.
DOWNLOAD: “In Other Words” “We Say You Pay”