It’s the Stooges contrary, opening lyric from this record’s first single that kind of sums up Sophie Allison’s themes throughout her debut proper: “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog/ That you drag around…” It’s a realisation – an admission – of being fucked over and allowing it to happen, but simultaneously a stance of defiance and hard-won experience. Clean is an album Allison has been building up to in her brief yet prolific spell under the Soccer Mommy moniker.
Although born in Switzerland, the jazz-trained guitarist grew up in Nashville and did the groundwork from her bedroom, with a series of self-recorded Bandcamp EPs that were written when Allison was 18 and transitioning from her hometown into college life. She expanded the homespun operation to a full band after her freshman year, a move that has provided subtly assured musical accompaniment to this current crop of songs.
Midway through the album’s opener, ‘Stay Clean’, the vocal seems to cut out in one channel, only to gradually re-surge to its full stereo effect – it feels like a playful reference to the lo-fi aesthetic of her earlier recording methods, but it’s also something that pulls the listener in with its sudden jarring headphone fuckery and asks, “Are you paying attention?”. It’s just a small sonic detail, one of many that the album is peppered with; the discordant guitars at the coda of ‘Cool’ that toy with the song’s standard structure, or the squeal of feedback way down in the mix as ‘Your Dog’ ends – just about perceptible…just enough to echo the snarl in the lyrics.
While Allison tips a nod to Avril Lavigne as someone who had a formative influence on her songwriting, the contemporary artist who springs to mind as Clean runs its course is Angel Olsen; the way Allison’s compositions flit from introspective folk, to feisty power pop, to those of a more panoramic, FM radio-friendly sheen. The band are even confident enough in their nailing of the album to insert ‘Interlude’ – an instrumental adorned with echoing guitar effects and an occasional sweep of reverb – just before ‘Wildflowers’ sedately closes out the record.
Where Soccer Mommy leaves the lasting impression, though, is via the sheer indie exuberance of ‘Last Girl’, as Allison compares herself to her boyfriend’s ex – “I want to be like your last girl/ She’s the sun in your cold world and/ I am just a dying flower/ I don’t hold the summer in my eyes.” The lyrics bleed insecurity, but the contradictory execution – power pop gold – suggests something else entirely. These are still the early days of Sophie Allison’s explorations in songwriting, but based on Clean, the future is bright for an artist steadily growing in confidence