Shopping

The Official Body

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

Shopping's brand of post-punk has only grown more potent with each album, and The Official Body is no exception. Rachel Aggs, Billy Easter, and Andrew Milk sound more assured than ever, and more danceable, too. Working with producer Edwyn Collins, they slow their often frantic pace down just enough to show off the formidable grooves on songs like "The Hype." A perfect example of Shopping at their finest, it pits the rhythm section's slinky foundation against Aggs' needling guitar lines while chants of "procrastination" and "last chance" wage war with each other. However, the need to seize the moment wins out on The Official Body, particularly on "Wild Child," where there's more than a hint of the B-52s in the interplay of Aggs' pretty but tough vocals and Milk and Easter's shouts, and shades of ESG, Tom Tom Club, and Collins' legendary Orange Juice in the track's spiky joyousness.

Of course, Shopping treat these influences as an ongoing dialogue rather than the last word, and they spend as much time adding new elements to their music as they do underscoring their strengths. A huge, buzzing synth-bass gives the brilliant "Discover" a bleak sexiness, making it a glimpse into the void that's perfect for the dancefloor. Throughout the album, Shopping translate the hunger driving their music -- and the consumerist, conformist culture they critique -- in increasingly clever ways. On "Control Yourself," a dizzying tangle of slogans and jagged riffs, they explode the idea of creating an identity through consumption; on "Suddenly Gone," a taut piece of post-punk perfection, they question notions of value and insignificance; and on "My Dad's a Dancer," Aggs gets to the heart of the matter: "You don't like me/I don't look like you." However, Shopping's searching extends to -- and likely begins with -- themselves, and when they look inward, they don't slow down: "Asking for a Friend" is equally driving and pensive, and on songs such as "New Values" and "Overtime," they give post-punk's quintessential alienation 21st century relevance. In the hands of queer artists of color like Shopping, post-punk's outsider status is much more than an aesthetic choice, and The Official Body is a frequently dazzling example of how resistance can be fortifying and even fun.

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