[sic] Magazine

Arndales – Shops

It’s a fair bet that home counties art-punks Arndales (a chain of British shopping centres for those that don’t know) are anti-corporation, anti-capitalist types. Begrudgingly they’ve earned their stripes the hard way though, slogging through tedious retail jobs in order to simply pay the bills, and their witty reductions of the banality of it all cut to the bone on record, a number of tracks pointedly aimed at the industry’s vapid jargon in an almost absurdist fashion.

Comprising members that have played in bands such as Country Teasers, Art Brut (not Eddie Argos as far as we know), Collapsed Lung and Thrilled Skinny, Arndales put out a 7” and EP for In The Red way back in 2014 and have now convinced the same label to put out their debut long-player, which is a surprise (even if ITR did release some of the better parts of the Country Teasers output in the early 00s) as Shops is a gloriously outdated album somewhat at odds with the usual cutting-edge garage-punk on the roster. Fashion changes quickly though and these 90s guys are old enough and wise enough to know better than to think it doesn’t. The sum of their parts was always unlikely to still be sufficient and yet that’s all we get, repeatedly.

As a result, Shops plays out exactly like the heavy, mid-00s indie pumped full of art-punk steroids it is. It’s also really catchy while crunching along and turned up to 11. The deadpan Southern vocal is oh-so-British, as Britpop as it is punk, no matter the smart snottiness of the lyrics. Blur could have made Shops if they’d invested in a noisier pedal array after Parklife, but so too could have Kaiser Chiefs after Employment and that’s probably not going to be taken as a compliment by many. At its best, there’s a messy, muscular Fall-esque sense of discordant post-punk going on, such as on “AGM”, and a number of tracks joyride the corpse of The 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster’s Royal Society around the trashiest niches of psychobilly rock nostalgically, but it’s ultimately more than telling that Shops‘ best track by far is the closer, a sharp cover of the ever-excellent “Theme From A Big 10-8 Place” by Negativland. Fifteen years ago there’d have been the makings of a decent album here, but today these same Shops are sadly suffering from high-street decay.

~Shops is released June 1st 2018 via In The Red.~