Seattle quartet Shoplifting met with immediate acceptance upon forming in 2003. Emerging from the debris of the Chromatics (three-fourths of that band went on to form Shoplifting), the new group quickly defined themselves with a more socially polemic initiative and messy performance approach. In their early shows, Shoplifting experimented with various performance-art effects and audience-involving tactics, but it sometimes felt as though the spectacle outweighed the musical content. All of those tangential investigations have yielded great refinement, however, as on their new debut album, Body Stories, and in recent performance they finally meet the high expectations many have had for them.
While initial releases found Shoplifting sounding frequently tinny, Body Stories vastly improves the group's visceral punk-rock expressions. Though the album occasionally indulges in small arrangement flourishes—variously multitracked guitars, gently blurting keyboards, etc.—it economically illustrates the current lineup's essential power. The helixed voices of singers Chris Pugmire and Hannah Blilie are often multitracked into weird hive-mind recitations, but sometimes left to a single, exposed tract. Pugmire tends toward a scrabbling yowl, while Blilie ventures into disquieting monotonal cooing, which lends even greater creepiness to fluid-crusted yarns like album closer "Claude Glass." Additionally, Blilie and guitarist Devin Welch's years of musical correspondence lend the band an intuitive and easy groove, even in the spikiest, most off-kilter songs. The foundations are so well hewn that new bassist Melissa Lock is freed to invest the songs with dark, abdominal countermelodies. The affect is of tightly knit pieces with just enough breathing room to allow for continual microscopic explosions.
Of punk bands' responsibility to deal with political content, Pugmire says, "[M]usic that makes your body feel good is just as important as music that's thought-provoking. Music should hold infinite abilities and possibilities."