The East London trio's knack for punk repetition with a funk sensibility isn’t novel, though what makes them stand out is their poised, joyful interplay.
Bands like Shopping serve as a reminder that past trends are most welcome when they come from an authentic place. The East London trio captures a youthful vitality that favors the activity of dancing as both social amusement and recreational therapy. Only that theirs emulates the punk-funk hybrid of the late seventies, a time in which it was okay to embrace taut, playful rhythms with political discourse. Shopping, of course, routinely deny their politics in true DIY spirit, though there’s a defiance in their terse wit that suggests a need to voice their opinions with a balanced demeanor.
Why Choose, their second full-length effort, considers the very nature of choice, and how it can factor into one’s own moral principles. Usually, the words Shopping make use of are ill defined, as if wanting to obscure any complex expression. They have a flair for engaging without ever really going into specifics, like in "Say It Once", in which vocalist Rachel Aggs circles around some given point without really saying anything at all. “Say it once, say it twice, say it over, say it right”, she dryly enunciates, cleverly changing the “say” to “do” in the next verse with every barbed bass line.
An obvious comparison to Shopping’s approach is Delta 5, a band that constantly detached itself from a slew of hot-button ideologies by always placing a heavy emphasis on rhythm. Shopping’s locked grooves are more sophisticated than the aforementioned, though, since tracks like “Straight Lines” and “Sinking Feeling” are attuned with contorted guitar hooks that leap out with crispness instead of dissonance or atonality. A constant delight comes precisely from Aggs’s tangled virtuoso passages, as if she were trying to channel the Edge’s luscious effects with junkyard parts whilst following Dick Dale’s surf-shred technique.
Shopping’s tuneful glee can be quite contagious when it really hits the mark, and its in their quizzical, though deliberate inconsistencies where they excel. "Take It Outside" has to be one of the most ebullient pick-a-fights in recent memory, where an agitated Aggs proclaims “Can you we take it outside / You heard me right”, though we’re left uncertain as to whether she wants to get into a fight or a friendly dance off. Or take the bouncy finale "12345", a slick instrumental that simply counts down the numbers after each circling vamp.
Shopping’s knack for repetition with a funk sensibility isn’t in any way novel, though what truly makes them stand out is their poised, joyful interplay. There’s a certain pattern to their approach, from their counter vocal melodies to their extended song structures (even with their short running times) that allows them to play against each other with an almost improvisational naturalness. At times, they could benefit from giving some insight without being so overly laconic; the lack in context, like in “I Have Decided”, can sound like they’re venting in empty protest. But alas, this is an album about choice, and even when they occasionally flub in their decision making they still own it with pride and care.