SEATTLE QUARTET SHOPLIFTING was met with immediate and ready welcome upon their inception in 2003. Formed from the uneasy debris of the Chromatics, the new band immediately defined themselves with a more socially polemic initiative and a somewhat messy, all-inclusive performance aesthetic. They voraciously experimented with all manner of performance art effects and community-involving tactics, but sometimes seemed to be spread too thin. All of those tangential investigations have yielded great refinement, however—on their debut full length, Body Stories.
Though the album occasionally and successfully indulges in small arrangement flourishes—variously multi-tracked guitar siblings, gently blurting keyboards, etc.—its primary accomplishment is a straightforward, economical illustration of the current lineup's power. The helixed voices of singers Chris Pugmire and Hannah Billie are often multi-tracked into weird hive-mind recitations, but sometimes left to a single, exposed track. Pugmire generally tends toward an impassioned, scrabbling yowl, while Billie ventures into disquieting monotonal cooing. Additionally, Billie and guitarist Devin Welch's years of musical correspondence (in previous bands such as the Vogue, Soiled Doves, and the Chromatics) lend the band a richly intuitive and easy groove, even in the spikiest and most off-kilter songs.
The foundations are so well hewn that new bassist Melissa Lock is greatly freed to invest the songs with dark, abdominal countermelodies—and the overall effect is of tightly knit compositions with just enough breathing room to allow for continual, microscopic explosions.