Post-punk trio Shopping have long been heralded as queer icons of the London DIY scene—but things change. For one, Shopping no longer consider London as their home base: Guitarist Rachel Aggs and drummer Andrew Milk have relocated to Glasgow, while bassist Billy Easter is currently living in L.A. The trio is also shaking off their pared-down sound, instead choosing to embrace the possibilities of synths, beats and a polished studio feel. The band is, obviously, still emblematic of queer artistic expression, but just maybe not in the way you were so sure that they were.
On All or Nothing, Shopping’s fourth album since their inception in 2012, they deliver some of their most articulate, exciting songs as a group, while also eschewing some of the formulaic components of their music that made them so interesting in the first place. They teased the electronic-leaning sound of the album with singles “Initiative” and “For Your Pleasure,” but while many bands lose their edge when they adopt a smoother, synthier aesthetic, Shopping still remain punk in a restless and frenetic way—even when the guitars are put down.
Shopping isn’t trying to become more commercial or appealing on a wider scale, but they undertook this sonic shift because, as a band that has long been heralded for its dance-y vibe, the incorporation of electronic elements seems to be a natural progression in order to make the most well-rounded version of what their music conveys.
Take single “For Your Pleasure.” There is no guitar on the track, but its absence is hardly jarring: They’ve more than made up for it with a juicy bass riff and clever, almost-spoken lyrics. It’s evocative of post-punk influences such as Gang of Four or Au Pairs, with the added bonus of simple yet riveting beats à la LCD Soundsystem or Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Even without their distinctive quasi-surf rock guitar strung throughout the album, All or Nothing hardly feels declawed. Another guitarless track, “Lies,” seems to be actively professing that the band’s new direction is actually indicative of them feeling empowered, with lyrics asserting: “Reinvention / Dispossession / As a weapon.”
Perhaps what remains so exciting about Shopping as a band is their mythos of radical queer sentiments and inherently political motifs—but this has hardly been communicated through prosthelytizing or in-your-face lyrics. Instead, Shopping radiate this oppositional sentiment from their own lived experiences. You might know the saying, “The personal is political”: When it comes to understanding the ethos of Shopping, maybe that saying can be more bluntly understood as “Duh, this music seems political because the very existence of queer people is.”
To be queer is to have a political label ascribed to your every action, whether or not you see yourself as an activist. You’d have to actively try to not allow these aspects of your daily life to influence your art, particularly the anxieties that surround being “othered” constantly. The song “About You” ruminates on the need to project a self-sufficient aura, but then not feeling allowed to relish in carefree sentiments: “Feeling serious / Feeling tough / We have it all worked out / And we act like it’s enough”
Fun, dance-y music is not antithetical to political expression—especially not queer political expression (look at how defensive everyone is getting over who judges a ballroom competition show!). Dance halls have long been a space for queer people to feel accepted and, most importantly, just have fun without worrying about the consequences.
Shopping provide this shelter, too. Through bass lines and beats that legally bar you from not shaking your ass, they implore their listeners to embrace oneself through dance. Letting go of the burdens of expectation and reality—especially a reality that comes closer and closer to restricting the freedoms of queer people—can truly be the most liberating act.
Revisit Shoping’s 2015 Daytrotter session: