Soccer Mommy review – teenage torment set to bittersweet jangles

Deaf Institute, Manchester
The Nashville songwriter has an easy, everyday charm – but her winning songs are full of venom and romantic angst

Sophie Allison, AKA Soccer Mommy, didn’t have the best time as a Nashville teen. There was the boyfriend who compared her unfavourably to his ex, the beau who dumped her for the “cool girl” and then the emotional abuser. Luckily, now 20, she has channelled these universal experiences of youth into DIY bedroom recordings and, more recently, two Fat Possum albums – 2017’s Collection and this year’s Clean – that are resulting in sold-out shows like this one. Dressed down in simple black T-shirt and jeans, she doesn’t seem angst-ridden or angry, exuding an easy, everyday charm and chatter. But this belies the venom in her vivid, startling lyrics: “I don’t want to be your fucking dog, that you drag around / A collar on my neck tied to a pole / Leave me in the freezing cold.”

Such bile is delivered via bittersweet, jangly, slacker guitar pop, her mellifluous band taking the music somewhere between Juliana Hatfield, Taylor Swift circa the album 1989, and even early Sheryl Crow. But Allison’s breezy, eyes-closed vocals conceal undercurrents of self-loathing.

For three songs – including a slower, more yearning take on Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire – a moment alone with her guitar shows another side: more musically delicate, akin to Julien Baker’s melancholia. The mix of styles, plus the onstage comings and goings, make this gig slightly uneven – her stagecraft leaves room for improvement, but the songs are winners. Cool is chiming angst; solo encore Waiting for Cars is hushed and magical. The Manchester audience adore her, although her travails aren’t over just yet. As she stands up after a sip of water, her head hits the microphone with a thud.

• At the Shipping Forecast, Liverpool, 8 September, then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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