Fat Possum Records
From those earliest bedsit staples by Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen on through to the discovery of the likes of Liz Phair and Juliana Hatfeld (both logical touchstones here) there’s something about the discovery of nascent songwriting; fragility – an attempt at catharsis through laying down the line and stripping bare the soul. Add Soccer Mommy – aka Sophie Allison – to the list. Clean is her debut full-lengther, showing up on the back of the early promise of Bandcamp singles (collected up as an EP).
These are guitar-driven songs of done-me-wrong lyrics – but it’s not about moping in the weepy way of the insular, overly emo and miserable. No, these are gritty, gumptious takedowns and kickbacks: “I don’t want to be your fucking dog/that you drag around/a collar on my neck tied to a pole/leaving me in the freezing cold” for instance. Or, “She’ll treat you like a fucking toy/she’ll break your heart and steal your joy”. Allison argues for herself and against her ‘competition’, she does this all in a style that does bring to mind the wave of female singer/songwriters that crested in across the late 1990s. But Clean has a purpose beyond any musical nostalgic-nods to those great, early records by Phair and Hatfield (which Allison could only have discovered way after the fact anyway). With choppy, strummy guitars and very subtle percussion (Wildflowers) the songs here have a life to live outside of any link back to other music that any reviewer or listener cares to make.
The album-centre and highlight though is Blossom (Waiting All My Time). Over simply strummed chords and with just a hint of anguish in the voice Allison comes over all Margaret Glaspy as she sings of wasting her own time. Here she is – the character in the song at least – stuck in that moment still but not wallowing. Again, it’s head-held-high stuff, a moment of clarity arriving. She sees through her own inability to flourish to recognise the strengths of the other person in the relationship. There’s maturity in these lyrics and in these lyrical situations. This isn’t simply flavour-of-the-month petulance – it’s far deeper than that. Think, also, Laura Marling’s perceptive lyrics/lyricism.
But when she does just lay back into a bit of a pop tune – a la Last Girl – we can appreciate the musical throwbacks as much as any statement-in-song.
That’s the real beauty here, the subtle cleverness. This is shit-hot pop music and a clever batch of break-up songs.
I think of Elvis Costello at times. The perfect marriage of a cracking-good melody, a driving rhythm and a clever lyric. I already look forward to Soccer Mommy’s sophomore album.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron