Washington, D.C. is best known for its plethora of crooked politicians, but there has long been a grass-roots rock underground to counter our nation’s capital’s less desirable side. Leave it to subversive and completely original independent musicians (read: not ‘punk’), a la Dischord Record’s The Beauty Pill and latest addition to the roster, Soccer Team, to champion the ongoing noise of the (melodically inclined) people. Although having little to do with organized sports, or much teamwork for that matter, Soccer Team is the result of Ryan Nelson and Melissa Quinley’s unflinchingly stark observations, be they political, social, or good old-fashioned relational. Throw in a four track and eight track recorder, skuzzy guitars, helter-skelter keyboards and understated vocals and you have one hell of a lo-fi debut in “Volunteered” Civility and Professionalism.
“Foreboding” might be an appropriate way to highlight the emotion evoked by Soccer Team’s debut album. But disenchanted, jaded, or apathetic would work equally well in describing the dark tones that enrich its gritty ambiance. “Volunteered” Civility & Professionalism is certainly a home-recorded affair, but it’s an aesthetic that colors the album in varied hues of black and blue that work very much in its favor. When Nelson sings, “Don’t you want me to talk about how much we got paid to change?/ It’s never easy bathing in champagne” on opener “So You Like It Vague, Huh?,” as his baritone guitar chugs through the 4-track cassette haze, you know you’re in for a biting indictment of all things `American’ in the tracks that follow.
On “Solid Ring Fighters,” Nelson exclaims “We’re hell-bent on snakes outlasting cuts from diamonds” and later “That’s all we got/ taste for stomaching dollars” as the keyboard drones and scatter-shot drums pepper the 8-track reel. Nelson’s lyrical observations synch up well with those of label mates The Beauty Pill, often serving as a harbinger to excess and ignorance perpetuated by the witless masses. It stands to reason, as Nelson is a former member of those very same D.C. stalwarts. Yet Soccer Team approaches this similar subject matter from a decidedly more somber and cynical (if that’s imaginable) framework.
Fans of The Beauty Pill will hearken to tracks like “Traffic Patterns,” an up-tempo derision against the drudgery of watching “the way the reds turn to greens,” and “Johnny Hart’s BC,” a comical depiction of male dominance based on the Sunday strip of the same name. Nelson and Quinley share vocal duties throughout, as on dingy “Cavity Called Home.” “I saw a cavity, it’s home/ I’m like the District’s favorite son” Nelson laments, later adding some masterful imagery in relating his plight, “Red lightning spreads in whites of eyes/ The cruelest schedule won’t subside.”
Tucked among all the stone monuments and colossal corruption lies a rough hewn diamond waiting to be discovered in Soccer Team. It’s comforting to know that in the face of failing politics, subversion is alive and well in our Nation’s capitol. Soccer Team tells it like it is, with no shortage of irony and pessimism at their disposal.