East London post-punk band Shopping have not seen much of a bounce from The Official Body, their underrated 2018 album. Songs like “The Hype” and “Suddenly Gone” with their fiery straightforward approach should have afforded them more mainstream recognition as a future “back-to-basics” leader. But that potential may have stalled out with some mediocre reviews from sites like NME. With their new album All or Nothing, Shopping will probably not win back these sites as the band mostly stick to their guns: a guitar, a bass, some drums, shared vocals, and a wealth of focused anger. Most notably, though, heavy glam-like keyboards enter into the mix bringing enough refreshing vitality to the best tracks here.
Though it may be tiresome by this point, comparing Shopping to Delta 5 and other similar bands from the late 1970s punk scene is unavoidable and certainly high praise. Instead of going for blistering speed or lo-fi grit, Shopping allows each instrument to separate itself and display each bandmate’s personality. There’s teamwork in the friction between the differing guitar and bass parts from Rachel Aggs and Billy Easter, respectively. At its best, you can switch back and forth between the bass and guitar to find which melody you want to latch onto. The only song that doesn’t work here is “Follow Me”, which doesn’t feature Aggs’ lead guitar and leaves her vocals out to dry.
“Follow Me” also features the biggest change to Shopping’s sound in their short history: keyboards! While that song doesn’t have much going for it, the prominent use of keyboards is effective practically everywhere else. Lead single “Initiative” might be their best standalone track, and it’s due to that wall of sound mentality in the chorus with the synths emboldening each instrument in the mix. Elsewhere, the keyboards act more as a co-lead instrument like on “For Your Pleasure” with a simple pulsing riff. “Lies” is full-on synthpop like a snarly Tegan & Sara. Overall, the addition is not all-encompassing but certainly a sign that more variations to the Shopping aesthetic could be forthcoming.
When it comes to lyrics, Shopping are terse and leave us to fill in the gaps. That would be a death knell of criticism for most bands, but Shopping’s emotional drive does the heavy lifting and makes their politics unambiguous. The title alone – All or Nothing – declares a revolt against half-stepping and compromise, a common theme among young progressive movements in America, the UK (their home), and frankly, around the world. We’re asked to “show some initiative” in the lead single, which delves more into wanting people to take charge of their actions. That might be projection in wanting bands to embody your righteous brand of politics, but just having a trio of differing appearances separating themselves in instrumental approach while remaining in lockstep is a beautiful statement in and of itself.
All or Nothing certainly could be more – it ends up being almost the exact length of The Official Body at around 30 minutes – but Shopping still thrive within their own limitations. The melodies come fast and furious, often through basslines – an approach few bands would risk defining themselves by. With that bass, the vibe is danceable but not lightweight, which is always an important balance to find no matter what genre. Shopping may have settled on a lateral move with All or Nothing, but it’s still a strong case for more converters to jump onto their bandwagon.