In the New Inquiry, Tiana Reid writes, “The contemporary meaning of crush – infatuation – has been sanitised.” No such accusations can be made against Clean, the debut album from Soccer Mommy, aka 20-year-old Sophie Allison.
Allison repeatedly sings of a sense of longing – her own for a male “you”, and his, for a host of cooler girls – in violent terms. On “Your Dog” she snarls, “I don’t want to be your fucking dog”– but the specificity of lyrics about being “a little pet/At the edge of every bed” show an understanding of the psychological pull of unrequited romance. In “Still Clean” she sings of an animal lust with “bloody teeth”.
Clean was written as Allison moved from her home in Nashville to college at NYU, and a long-distance relationship with a boy at home slowly collapsed. A theme emerges: Allison often writes about feeling caged, gloomy and cold, yearning to be warm, breezy and wild. In fact, no boy lies at the heart of Clean’s longing. Instead, cool girls are idolised, as Allison desires desirability itself on songs like “Last Girl” and “Cool”.
Sonically, Soccer Mommy hovers between the 1990s-nostalgic grunge of Wolf Alice, and the hazy warmth of Best Coast. Poppier tones come to the fore, as she sings about the girl she’d like to be. Allison’s more accessible references (Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift) are pleasingly apparent, but the distorted textures of Nirvana and Sonic Youth are always present. Soccer Mommy has opened for Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers: her brand of vulnerable, piercing indie rock sits well alongside these acts. But these songs of psychological conflict are too specific to be reduced to comparisons with other artists: Clean is an album that insists on being heard on its own terms.