After releasing two excellent albums last year with Sacred Paws and Trash Kit you could be forgiven for thinking Rachel Aggs would need a rest. However, the prolific guitarist and singer has popped up with another release, this time once more alongside long time running partners Billy Easter and Andrew Milk.
What’s impressive is that Shopping managed to get this album written in a two week intensive session. They got together briefly while living across the world from each other. What’s even more impressive is that it doesn’t sound thrashed out or rushed. In fact it’s somehow poppier, less spiky and breathes a little more than their previous three albums; the FatCat released “The Official Body” and “Why Choose” and their DIY release “Consumer Complains”.
Shopping have never not been catchy and are still the ultimate party band. Milk’s machine like drumming retains its tight simplicity, rarely straying from the beat, always on point. This allows Easter to lay down some serious bass grooves and Aggs’ guitar to dance majestically over the top. At one moment the guitar is revolving in a highlife loop, the next it’s jittering and cutting through the grooves like a razor.
“Trust In Us” is perhaps the archetypal Shopping song. Milk’s simple beat serves as the introduction, Easter’s bass is minimalistic and funky. The sort of bassline that The Rapture used to serve up in their prime. Lyrically it seems to be a dig at the current culture of empty political sloganeering, imploring people to “trust in us” without giving anyone a real reason too. The guitar work takes centre stage in a dancey instrumental segment, while the drums become further layered with cowbell. It’s everything we’re used to in a Shopping song.
“Initiative” is more jerky and tense. The bassline is elasticated, the guitar skids over the top a la Devo before it drops out. The chorus opens up with big choral synth chords that provide space and allow the drums to really drive the song. The lyrics are pointed and argumentative “why can’t you show some initiative?” It’s a real indie club banger and the first sign of the band mixing things up with synths. This continues on “Follow Me”. There are electronic robotic pings and wobbly textures. It’s unlike anything else I can remember them making. Almost like they are remixing themselves. Milk joins in on vocals briefly. “No Apologies”, however, puts Milk at centre stage on vocals in the opening lines and it ends up with every member singing individual parts overlapping each other. Easter’s distant backing vocals are great in this one, adding a tinge of The Raincoats. It’s all set to a simple bass groove and brings back Aggs’s stellar guitar work.
“For Your Pleasure” features a very strange drumbeat that seems straightforward but then trips over itself at the end of each bar. This is perhaps a little distracting at first but definitely adds an interesting element alongside the catchy Depeche Mode style synth pop that it accompanies. Again the chorus is lyrically straight to the point – “What you see is what you get”. It seems there is a quite serious and pointed theme running throughout ‘All Or Nothing’.
Centrepiece “About You” is dusted in reverb. The bassline is punchy, the guitars drift in and out until the song starts to build from around the 2 minutes 30 mark.
“Lies” moves things back into synth pop mode. It has an eery atmosphere provided by the heavily reverbed percussion and features a really great chorus. For every synth number Shopping respond with another more guitar heavy track up until “Expert Advice”, which is perhaps the highlight. The triple vocal arrangement that builds from the verses into the chorus is fabulous. It’s a really great pop song. “Body Clock” perhaps best highlights Aggs’s guitar playing with the irregular looping phrase of the verses and superbly twitchy chorus backed by a pacey drumbeat and funky bass. Title track “All Or Nothing” feels like the logical ending to the record. It combines all the best of everything new that the band brings on the album. They somewhat threw the kitchen sink at this song. The chorusy synth sounding bass and highlife guitar in the verses, vivid cymbal production, burbling synth, awesome chanted backing vocals and superb rising dynamics make for a spectacular closer.
Shopping have not completely rewritten their rule book but have certainly edited it. The ventures here into synth pop offer another path and it will be fascinating to see where this leads them next. So yet another very enjoyable record from them.
‘All Or Nothing’ is out now via Fat Cat Records.
You may enjoy this if you like: Trash Kit, Sacred Paws, Current Affairs, Devo, Foals