Shoplifting Body Stories

[Kill Rock Stars; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: experimental rock, post-punk
Others: The Chromatics, Erase Errata, Xiu Xiu

You have to hand it to traditionalists in the music scene for their staunch attempts at keeping unnecessary bullshit at bay. It's an admirable task, for sure, and since so many charlatans in the recent post-punk boom seem more intent on the free drugs than any actual musical abilities, it's nice that some folks out there just want to make some good ol' no-nonsense punk 'n' roll.

But when you're so steadfastly geared toward keeping everything orthodox and stern on a self-conscious quest for critically immune authenticity, there's inevitably going to be a certain lack of inventiveness and, more importantly, soul permeating the results. Shoplifting, who are made up of defected Chromatics members who got out in time to avoid Adam Miller's recent descent into bottom-of-the-barrel electro-pandering, are by no means an incompetent or uninspiring band, but as their full-length debut Body Stories goes to show, proving yourself to be above the droves of band-wagoners does little more than convince others that you know your post-punk history a little more passionately than most.

So, if you want to know Body Stories in a nutshell, simply add the best bits of post-Gang Of Four post-punk with Dischord-era earnestness, and you'll have the proper ingredients to concoct your own hypothesis as to how the record plays without actually hearing it. And as downright awful as most bands are who need to describe themselves as "Band A meets Band F having sex with Band Z," writing about Shoplifting as an approximation of The Pop Group meets latter-era Fugazi run through a crash course in the Au Pairs' repertoire is fairly accurate and far from malicious grumbling. And the ghosts of post-punk past would actually approve of most of Body Stories' nods of inspiration. "Male Gynecology" rings out a few angular no-wave rhythms that The Contortions may have toyed with, "What About A Word?" is the Gang Of Wire supergroup that never materialized, and the instrumental "Flying Factory" could've easily appeared on a compilation dedicated to Fugazi's Red Medicine-era dubby explorations.

Yet in the end, what does this all add up to? Shoplifting's got the goods, but when all is reflected on, they're a solid opening band at best, one of those acts that's nice to pass the time with, but far from anything that's clamoring for a space in your brain on the walk to the record shop the next day. For a band that so obviously apes their sound from an era savaged dry by every hipster in New York, Shoplifting come out unscathed in that they have more juice than any local rock star egomaniac will ever hope to get from his pre-gig coke binge. Still, the best revivalist acts take their inspirations and make themselves sound as if they could've sat right alongside their heroes without anyone batting an eye. The Exploding Hearts did it; hell, even Interpol did it. For Shoplifting, Body Stories is a good start, but they need to know that loosening their collars a bit won't prevent folks from taking them seriously.

1. M. Sally
2. Male Gynecology
3. Talk Of The Town
4. Cover To Cover
5. Flying Factory
6. Illegalists
7. What About A Word?
8. Syncope Riders
9. Untrust/Trust
10. Claude Glass