Soccer Mommy shines in her live rendition of debut album 'Clean'

Someone should introduce Soccer Mommy to Hockey Dad.

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Monique Pizzica

No one has been able to explain how Clean is Soccer Mommy’s debut album. Apparently, her other two releases, 2017’s Collection and 2016’s For Young Hearts don’t count for some unknown reason. Pitchfork even gave Collection a serviceable 6.7! It makes no sense, but on the back of her un-debut album Clean, Soccer Mommy, the seriously uncool moniker of Sophie Allison has come close to selling out her first Melbourne headline show.

As Howler filled up with punters, some still with their now-grubby Falls Festival wristbands hanging off their wrists, the anticipation was not rooted in any amount of mystery for the evening, but to simply see a pretty damn good album played live in a different order than you’d normally listen to on Spotify.

‘Henry’ is the typical new song. You know, you’ve just released a critically acclaimed album and the record label is begging for new material to spruik whilst you’re on tour so you record something in Rome or Bangkok on your two-day layover and of course you’re brutally hungover in the makeshift studio they’ve sent you to. We’ve all been there.

It’s never the artist’s best work, but it’s enough. And ‘Henry’ is enough.

Songs from her two cult, Bandcamp-pushed albums were interspersed through the set in an attempt to break up the Spotify-on-shuffle feeling. It works to limited effect, due mostly to the fact that Soccer Mommy’s earlier material is pedestrian at best. Sophie even admits that one song, the autobiographic ‘Allison’ was a project for college, one for which she got an A-.

Her candour is refreshing even if her inability to recognise Adelaide as a city is a bit embarrassing. “Oh very funny, I’ll make sure to visit there next time” she quips before a larrikin responds “don’t bother, it’s not worth it!” in a typically Melbourne manner. The crowd laughs along, half in disbelief and half in awkwardness at her D in Geography.

But Allison's lovelorn lyrics are so wise beyond her years that it’s easy to forget she's still learning about the world as much as she's learning about herself. It’s this beautifully voyeuristic element of Soccer Mommy’s music that made Clean one of the best albums of 2018.

A mid-set solo cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ is sublime, one of the few songs where you hear the Nashville-bred drawl in her voice and it matches the smouldering intensity of the Born In The U.S.A classic. This spectacular moment is backed up by her own slow-burning masterpiece, ‘Still Clean’; a song that embraces the beauty of simplicity in songwriting and the devastating emptiness of being tossed aside by a lover.

The melodic texture of Clean owes nearly just as much to the early 21st century Seattle indie-pop of Sub Pop and Barsuk Records as it does her homegrown finger-picking heroes of the deep south. This balance is a rich mine to be explored. However, it will be interesting to see if Soccer Mommy can move past the sum of her own influences and create genuine dynamics in her sound, as her biggest criticism is resting too long in one comfortable gear that creates homogeneity in her sound.

But that’s something to figure out for her fourth/second album. Clean was the breakup album of 2018 and if the lovesick enthusiasm of her first Melbourne crowd is anything to go by, this won’t be the last we see of Sophie Allison. Who knows, next time she might even swing by Adelaide.

Highlight: The Boss.

Lowlight: “$50 for an artist with one album…a bit steep” - overheard at the bar.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Your Dog’. A brilliant feminist anthem.