Along with the Jesus and Mary Chain, Edinburgh’s Shop Assistants are part of a trend away from the terribly twee pop coming out of Scotland in the early ’80s. Four lasses and a lad (including two drummers), the Shop Assistants are raw, catchy and utterly without pretense. Their first two EPs combine some of J&M’s white-noise pop with Buzzcocks-influenced buoyancy, and — when necessary — tuneful delicacy (see Safety Net‘s “Somewhere in China”). The four-song debut is promising; Safety Net is nothing short of brilliant.
The band’s first album reprises two songs from each of the preceding releases; while it’s by no means a bad record, there aren’t any ideas on it that weren’t already covered on the EPs. Shop Assistants is good, straightforward, tuneful rock’n’roll (and a real good party album), but too many of the tracks blend into one another.
In 1987, lead singer Alex (a woman) split to form the extremely similar Motorcycle Boy (not to be confused with the American band of the same name).
The Shop Assistants reconvened in 1989 as a four piece, but not without playing some musical chairs. Former bassist Sarah took over lead vocals, one drummer left, one took over bass duties and another arrived, leaving only guitarist David staying put (still no surnames). Despite all the changes, Here It Comes‘s title track pretty much picks up where the band left off, although without the old feedback blur. A cover of Half Japanese’s “Too Much Adrenalin” is great retro raunch, as is the concluding “Look Out.” Big E Power (these Ecstasy references are getting out of hand) is more tuneful, even if the airy-voiced Sarah sounds almost intimidated in her starring role. The title song is included twice, once as a bootleg-quality live “big flares mix” recorded in Manchester; the atonal jam would do the Velvets proud. A cover of the Beatles’ “She Said She Said” is, strangely enough, not credited as such. The Shop Assistants won’t change anyone’s life, but it’s nice to have them back.