Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Fans Also Liked - 90s Nostalgia Bebadoobee/Soccer Mommy

Beabadoobee: Artist You Need to Know - Rolling Stone

From our current dismal year, it seems like our collective escape has been nostalgia, although it’s oddly enough for a decade a lot of the people reading this will either have missed, or been an infant during. I guarantee you know someone born in 99 or 98 who describes themselves as a ‘90’s kid’, and while historically the 90s are quite recent, it’s for a lot of us unfathomable to fully see just how much has changed.

It’s perhaps this lack of contextual memory which has allowed the decade to be used so freely by young artists as a reference base. You can’t get bored of the 90s sound, because you weren’t there having it overplayed on the radio or on a constant loop at parties, and there’s a certain excitement in that.

For a lot of people the two singles we’re talking about today, Bebadoobee’s ‘Care’ and Soccer Mommy’s ‘Circle the Drain’ will be an insular example of what indie rock sounds like in 2020, but as this series of articles seeks to prove, nothing is original! But that isn’t a bad thing.

We’ll get on to why later, but first, I’d listen to these songs back to back, as I think it’s impossible not to without seeing some obvious trends in performance and production. It’s the doubled up acoustic and electric guitars, the pixie vocals, the slight flangers going on in the background, and most importantly that crunchy but not too intense distortion. It all screams, as the artists will admit themselves, 90s!

Absolutely for the better, indie and alt recently has been gravitating away from the usual angry white boy affair, with an increasingly large percentage of bands being fronted by a new generation of female singer songwriters.

It’s important not to forget the roots of the movement though, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because if you do, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of 90s riot grrl and female led bands that are at play as major influences here.

One that comes to mind when looking at Care is the Julianna Hartfield Three. While some other bands at the time did go full punk with the vocals, Courtney Loves’ Hole being the prime example of this, Bebadoobee’s definitely opted for the later stage approach of singing with a slight element of cool distance and disinterest, while having aggressive production that says otherwise. If this sound is your thing, a good place to start is ‘My Sister’ although while Hartfield’s solo work might be more influential, in my opinion her best stuff is with her band Blake Babies.

They’re probably a bit too bubblegum to fall into this particular thread of influence, but I’d argue that those pixie vocals still echo in a lot of Bebadoobee’s sound.

One of the bands other cited favourites is infamous ‘anti-folk’ group The Moldy Peaches. If you’re wondering what anti-folk is, it’s singing about downloading porn and smoking crack, rather than country backroads and old flames.

While there isn’t much of their sound present in the new single, it’s a lot easier to see elements of it in Bebadoobee’s more acoustic stuff like ‘The Moon Song’ and ‘Coffee’.

Soccer Mommy seems to take a different element from the era, that being a much more shoegazey ethereal tone. A lot of this comes from lead singer Sophie Allison’s voice, and while there’s a lot who can compare in the 90s talent pool, probably the clearest influence comes from this decade, that being Mitski.

While she’s worn a lot of hats genre wise I honestly don’t think there’s any better example of 90s nostalgia rock than her third album ‘Bury me at Makeout Creek’ (2014), which, much like Soccer Mommy’s latest album ‘Color Theory’ is laden with more contemporary and thought out lyrics, but still with that distinct 90s sound.

It’s easy to just look at the production, but one of the best things to come out of such a prolific decade for music, was the complete rejection of traditional lyricism.

While I can’t really say that Care is off the wall lyrically, Color Theory, much like a lot of Mitski’s stuff, is definitely worth a listen for some of the writing alone. Part of Allison cheery picking from some of the woozier parts of the decade, leads to an overall, half grunge, 30% shoegaze, and sometimes acoustic album that is definitely worth a listen, if not for any other reason but the fact it stands as a great example of recontextualising and wearing your influence on your sleeve. 

There is one more song to mention though, and while not a direct influence, an article on 90s Alt would be remiss without bringing up Throwing Muses - Not too Soon. 

Effectively I want this column to serve as a mixtape where you can go in one end with current artists you love, and leave the other with a whole new set in the same vein. It’s why, I’ve also chucked the last song into the playlist below, because it’s a safe bet that if you like any of the stuff we’ve talked about so far, you’ll like it too. 

All the songs listed are available in order of reference to check out here:

Fans Also Like aims to use music as a gateway to more music. It’s based on the fundamental principle that good musicians, really do love and listen to music, and that to be a part of that is to bring you closer to the artists you love.

- James Charalambides



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