Shop Assistants, Anthology 1985-1986

Mike McGonigal

By Mike McGonigal

on 05.22.07 in Reviews

When the Shop Assistants first married punk intensity with gorgeous, '60s-style female vocals in the mid '80s, it was one of those small steps for a little group that was also a huge step for garage-band-kind. The Scottish act's perfect pop formula has been liberally borrowed by other indie-pop acts ever since the Shoppies broke through — by the D.C.-based Black Tambourine in the late '80s, Ann Arbor's Slumberland in the mid '90s and Brooklyn's Vivian Girls here in the late '00s. Consider the group's two signature, template tunes, "Somewhere In China" and "Home Again." That former number, perhaps their finest moment, is fuzzy and beautiful, an airy confection that takes jangle-pop and turns it on its ear. The latter finds them showing their peppy side, a revved-up and pretty little pop-punk jingle.

The original girl-group/indie-poppers get lovingly anthologized

The songs here seem to have been mastered from vinyl — but doesn't indie-pop always sound better with a little bit of crackle and hiss? Any quibbles with this collection will be minor and trainspotter-y. It would have been wonderful if the compilation started a year earlier (when the group were called Buba & the Shop Assistants, before Aggi left to join the Pastels and then the Sugarcubes) as that single is impossible to find and has never been compiled anywhere. All in all, though, this is the band at their peak — which is saying a lot. The Shoppies gave us loud guitars, gorgeous melodies that manically shift from happy to sad, primitive stand-up drum and handclaps. And there is nothing else you need in life, ever.