Shoplifting – S/T EP


The debut EP from these Seattle provocateurs is a clanging, cacophonous mix of aggressive no-wave atonality and confrontational post-Riot Grrl sexual politics that must make for some very weird groupies. Shoplifting mixes the liberated fury of Huggy Bear with the knottier skronk of NYC gender-benders God is My Co-Pilot on four tunes that writhe and wail more in anger and accusation than out of any sense of lustful fulfillment.

It’s a frequently fascinating car-wreck of spasmodic guitar damage and hectoring, sometimes hysterical vocals that works best when the music is at its fiercest. Like the tortured guitar of “Raw Nails Now” slashing in step with the crashing drums as the boy/girl singers exhort you to “cut my prick in poles / scrape out cum and violence,” not necessarily the sentiment of someone who is looking forward to their next lay.

Most of this EP isn’t the sound of someone who has found their freedom, or if they have, it’s come with a fair amount of paranoia and ugliness. But the unsettling music fits the message, as in “Ask,” a creeping groove that seems to be invoking either an episode of homoerotic harassment or an actual rape. The tribal pulse of the drums and bass support the unhinged male vocal even as the guitars teeter on the brink of collapse, as they do throughout the disc. Although the steady rhythm section is responsible for keeping these songs in an identifiable shape, it’s fun to hear the guitars contort themselves into monstrous shapes that still manage to resolve into – I hesitate to call it a “hook,” but it’s a recognizable landmark of a sort that you’re happy to return to.

Like any politically radical college age kids, Shoplifting’s take on sex isn’t particularly sexy. Which isn’t to say I don’t want to sleep with the band (I do), but I wonder if, at the moment of climax, they can be counted on to blurt out something as bourgeois as “oh God, oh God, oh God” instead of some revolutionary, Dadaist boilerplate. They do manage to state their aims pretty clearly among all the oddly compelling scree: “Let’s fuck, bleed, piss, play, cum, steal, love, and create” they sing in “Contrapuntal Prancing.” Don’t get them confused, though! “Excuse me Mrs. Smith, can little Jimmy come out and fuck?”

Sure they’re trying too hard, too in love with some anarcho ideal of the complete bohemian and too strident in their clumsy and obscure lyrics to convince anyone; but their music is bold and bracing, and the intensity is contagious. It’ll be interesting to see how both their ethic and their aesthetic develop in future releases.