True to their name, UK post-punk group Shopping has a fixation with economy. Between guitarist Rachel Aggs's clean, precise leads and Andrew Milk's regimented drum patterns, the group's playing style is tight to the point of fussiness. Despite frequent comparisons to the Slits and Gang of Four, it's hard to imagine the trio recording with either band's messy, thrilling spontaneity.
This mannered approach divides the band's third album against itself. They've expanded their sound, incorporating electronic flourishes and crisp production from former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins. Unfortunately, The Official Body remains confined to rudimentary rock arrangements and rigid structures. It doesn't reconcile these contradictions until its final three tracks, which makes for restless, if brief, listening in its middle entries.
That's a shame, because the genre could use more acts like Shopping. Alienation is a cornerstone of post-punk songwriting, but the band's terse lyrics filter that theme through more than just straight white angst. On "Asking for a Friend," Agg alternates between repetitive affirmations and dissatisfied plaintiveness, and she takes a direct approach to othering on "My Dad's a Dancer." Her lyrics are beguilingly cryptic on "New Values," which serves as a glimpse at where the band could go if they pushed their boundaries a little further.
As it stands, though, Shopping's constraints still define them on The Official Body. Economy can be great, but it's starting to limit this band. (Fat Cat)