Talk of the Town

Shoplifting points its finger beyond the dance floor.

A lot of bands talk shit, but Shoplifting walk the walk of punk's conscientious objectors—and nowhere as much as on Body Stories, released this March on Kill Rock Stars. As on their 2004 EP, they look at gender and sex issues through a radical lens, arguably doing more to keep those conversations alive than any band in the area. Produced by Steve Fisk, Body Stories is Shoplifting's most realized, listenable work yet, sounding cleaner than—but as immediate and personal as—the basement party it evokes. Ten songs alternate the tuff-textured guitar gnarl and moodiness of Sister-era Sonic Youth with disco drumbeats and chants, as on "M. Sally" and "Talk of the Town." A range of tempos, from the quasi-rockabilly of "Illegalista" to the droning "Flying Factory," show a band that can't, maybe defiantly won't, decide on a formula. Though drummer/vocalist Hannah Blilie (who works double-time with the Gossip) and guitarist/keyboardist Devin Welch have been active in Seattle's music scene for years in bands like the Vogue and Chromatics, their current project—with vocalist/guitarist Chris Pugmire and new bassist Melissa Lock—really does produce music that sounds like nothing else in town. Now that Riot Grrrl is the historical stuff of academia, are Shoplifting bummed about the floundering of original punk scenes, or more excited to be at the helm of what's left? "I think we feel more like the engine room crew in Das Boot," says Pugmire from the road between Austin and Phoenix.

While Wolfgang Petersen's story of a submarine crew in war time may be an apt metaphor, Pugmire dismisses any overarching sense of isolation, citing bands like Mikaela's Fiend, Finally Punk, Bad Thoughts, Gay Beast, and Impractical Cockpit as sources of inspiration. Despite their relative invisibility in the community at large, Shoplifting work to keep what's important to them in focus. "Talk of the Town" resurfaces on Body Stories from an earlier 7-inch release, where it first cited the ambivalence toward a particular sexual assault in the music scene. Pugmire says nobody expected that situation to resolve, but "the survivor ended up getting a lot of support from the perpetrator's friends who helped hold him accountable, which is rare," he says. "And amazing."

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