Just a few days after her debut record Clean was released back in March, Sophie Allison AKA Soccer Mommy and her band played in Manchester for the first time. The venue was The Castle and although it was a sell-out, attendance was still only in double figures in this tiny room at the back of the pub. The impact of the album can clearly be felt six months later as the larger Deaf Institute is fit to burst by the time the twenty year old ambles on to the stage.
Accompanying her on this tour is the North East’s Brooke Bentham. Fixing us all with a death stare as she stands alone, her love songs offer jagged insights into complex relationships but there is a surprising deftness to proceedings as songs such as stand out moment ‘Heavy And Ephemeral’ simmer elegantly one minute before erupting passionately the next. Early material on record feels a bit too glossy but her latest release ‘Out of My Mind’ is an aggressive and fuzzy testimony of frustration in the vein of Angel Olson, and it is this version of Brooke Bentham that we get tonight.
Sophie Allison’s Nashville origins are not immediately apparent. The capital of country has not defined the Soccer Mommy sound, but the hard work and determination to succeed which this city demands is something that Allison has clearly been inspired by, hence the return to Manchester only six months after her previous visit. ‘Henry’ opens proceedings and its jangly, guitar-led rhythms disguise more downbeat themes and ‘Try’ continues this musical masquerade as summery tones accompany the ominous line, “passed you on a side street, brushed across your wrist like a razor blade.” There’s a hint of Jessica Lea Mayfield’s blunt candour in her lyrics but the lo-fi indie pop of her music assuages the impact somewhat.
There is also something reassuringly retro about these songs and ‘Last Girl’ enhances the nostalgic flavour of the evening. The track comes from Clean and the song blends a 90s Britpop vocal with a grittier college rock sound to create a wonderfully catchy, lo-fi experience, whilst still maintaining the simmering anger of youth which tracks like ‘Your Dog’ and ‘Cool’ fervidly demonstrate. Once again links to the more explicit rage of Jessica Lea Mayfield emerge.
The angry sentiments inherent in her material never spill out in-between songs and Allison is a warm host and a confident performer, ditching the band half way through the evening to go it solo for a particularly tender version of Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’. This change in approach is impressive, offering more reflective thrills, but she seems most confident when rocking out and ‘Scorpio Rising’ ends amid a flurry of ragged guitar from a prostrate Julian Powell.
Momentum is everything it seems and this quick return to the city along with support slots with stars including Kacey back in the States will ensure her brand of lo-fi indie rock will not be contained within the confines of Manchester’s smaller venues for much longer.