Published Feb 07, 2020Dance, like politics, concerns itself with assembling and managing bodies, with making them move. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that movement has long been in conflict with the powers that be. In the 1920s, dancers jittering to the clang of jazz were thought to degrade social norms, inviting disorder and criminality. The tumble of mosh pits at punk shows has long been targeted for falling just a push too far beyond the bounds of civility. There's clear power in collective movement — in how it fleetingly fragments and reworks the standard arrangement of political control. There's power, too, in the music that brings it into being.
Since forming in 2012, British trio Shopping have specialized in precisely this kind of music. Their tracks are sinewy, brash and political, exhibiting a tense minimalism perfected on the 2018 LP The Official Body. On their latest release, All or Nothing, Shopping amp up their kinetic post-punk, with a slot of ten songs designed to leverage the radical potential of dance and make movement mandatory.
The uniformly breathless quality of the album belies the breakneck pace of its creative process. Recorded during a ten-day window between London and Glasgow, All or Nothing pushes Shopping's sound into a more electric and elastic airspace. Whereas earlier albums hewed closely to the demo version of each song, bassist Billy Easter explains that "in the spirit of the album title," the band decided to lean into the kind of pop production they've "always dreamed about."
The result is a group of songs so tightly and tensely worked out that they seem perpetually at risk of tripping over themselves. Lead single "Initiative" features a tense rumble of drums and synths, plastered over the obsessive command to "show some initiative." It's an irrefutable push of a song, one that defines the record's ethos of rapid movement.
All or Nothing's more subtle trick is in how, through this movement, it makes doppelgangers of the personal and the political. "Follow Me" finds guitarist Rachel Aggs declaring "you're watching me so closely, you're watching me alone," before calling out "follow me, follow me, I'll make it worth it." It's unclear here whether Aggs is addressing a potential suitor, or the all-seeing-eye of some modern surveillance state. Smartly toggling between our sense of which it might be, the album allows for individual release, while keeping an eye on the political forces loitering around the corner.
On All or Nothing, Shopping talk big and play loud, showing their sharp sense of what makes people move. It's an album that just can't wait to be released, to spread its way through a gathered crowd — and, at last, to watch the motion begin. (Fat Cat)