– Ritz, Manchester –

Soccer Mommy

Soccer Mommy

Sophie Allison’s music as Soccer Mommy has always had a cathartic edge (see tonight’s encore closer ‘Your Dog’ from her debut album Clean, with the positively holler-able opening line “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog”), but rarely has it been so goddamn dark as it is on her latest LP Sometimes, Forever, her third and possibly best effort yet. Produced with Dan ‘Oneohtrix Point Never’ Lopatin, it’s a deeper dive into the more shadowy recesses of Allison’s songwriting, and rarely strays into ‘indie pop banger’ territory. Quite how that would translate to a live setting where the audience are primed to shout back snippets of emo lines back at her remains to be seen.

The show starts… slowly. It’s a Tuesday night, the crowd at the Ritz maybe isn’t as busy as it could be, and Allison kicks things off with two newbies, the downbeat ‘Bones’ in which her vocals get slightly lost in the muddy mix, but which explodes in guitar based noise towards the end, and ‘With U’, a swirling dream pop gem of a song with more than a hint of Bends era Radiohead about it. For whatever reason, they don’t quite land with the audience and it all feels a little flat. This has nothing to do with the band who are on storming form, beefing up Allison’s sound – the noise they generate at the end of ‘Bones’ feels like it should rattle the crowd out of their slumber, but it doesn’t quite break through.

But here it comes. With color theory’s ‘circle the drain’ the audience starts to respond, and by the end of ‘Shotgun’, Sometimes, Forever’s biggest ‘pop’ single, it feels a lot more lively and the lacklustre atmosphere seems to be thawing. ‘crawling in my skin’ is massive, the guitars rattling the balcony of the Ritz, rumbling it’s infamous dance floor. And here we very much go, with two monster dirges from Sometimes, Forever, which absolutely destroy and showcase just how dark and moody Allison’s music can be. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but the one-two of ‘Unholy Affliction’ and ‘Darkness Forever’ are astonishing, the drums pummelling almost metal-esque, the guitars warped out of their usual poppy chords, it feels like we’ve landed in the backend of a high school horror film, and it’s great. The power on show here feels like the element that was missing at the beginning, and it’s thrilling to watch.

Before the aforementioned cathartic encore sing-a-long, we are treated to a solo rendition of ‘Still’, just Allison and her guitar, a gorgeous if heart-breaking interlude (‘I lost myself to a dream I had / And I’d never give it all away / but I miss feeling like a person’ *brimming eyes emoji*), and an epic ‘yellow is the colour of her eyes’ which descends into screaming squalls of guitar sending feedback to the very end of my ear tunnels. It’s moments like this that make me feel like I’m watching some peak 1992 alt-rock showcase in some dive bar in Seattle attended by A&Rs from Sub Pop, and it’s where Allison and her band mates really click. All in all, a very decent Tuesday night out; let’s just hope that false start is an anomaly.

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