Shoplifting practices a brand of furious impressionist punk that the early Sonic Youth could only dream of. The lyrics are broken and sharp. They are broad enough to apply to any situation but can be dangerously destructive. The music takes the guitar, drum and bass trio to the limit, sounding haphazard but never without purpose.
The opening track, “L.O.V.E.,” begins with an aural assault of swaying bass, and a skittering, machine-gun twang of a grating guitar, strongly reminiscent of Lou Reed’s detuned “ostrich guitar” method employed by the early Velvet Underground. With color and pedigree firmly in place, Shoplifting proceeds to transcend any clumsy comparisons and speculative influences. The band’s method seems to involve periodically interrupting the clamor of its compositions with twisted nods to melody, creating recognizable pop patterns out of the rough-riding din of its songs.
Devin Welch and drummer Hannah Billie are great vocalists perfectly capable of harmonizing with each other, as demonstrated in “Contrapuntal Prancing,” but, for the most part, they prefer to scream at each other. The vocal interplay takes center stage in the opening lines of the slow motion doom-boogie “Ask Me,” a threadbare exploration of gender relations in a time and place where the old broken roles seem largely and embarrassingly irrelevant.
Shoplifting demonstrates how rock should be: Spontaneous, emphatic and with enough substance to care about. This 15-minute EP wisely leaves the listener wanting more, and with the promise that the band has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.