Hey don’t interrupt the sorrow, we’re literally dying here. Soda Shop—the musical marriage of Selebrities’ honey-voiced Maria Usbeck and occasional Drums’ axeman Drew Diver—clearly love to revel and roll in their melancholy. This deceptively summery debut is simply drowning in the tormented tears of young love gone bad. But damn, ma’am, the SS do it with such vintage pop melody “dem blues” sound almost more desirable than the love they so dearly crave.
“Tragically sad… untouchable,” they cry. With its mix of the Shangri-Las’ happy-heartbreak and the lonely lilt of the Smiths, Soda Shop swoons and moons like a little sister of the Drums’ very first Summertime EP. Its eight mini-melodramas are crushingly adorable. It’s short, sweet, sincere and melts like a broken heart on the beach. These blue seas are awash with teenage dreams and doubts, bust-ups and betrayals, and one teeny spark of “screw you” revenge. Usbeck’s perfume pine often evokes Julee Cruise which gives the album a soft-focus, elegantly doomed, Twin Peaks sheen. Yet you could probably dance to every song, albeit whilst sobbing alone in your bedroom. The pounding, bouncy opener “Fence” wrestles with suspicious minds and paramour paranoia (“Don’t tell me that you love her”) before the skiffle shuffle of “Round & Round” swiftly concludes, “Nothing will ever get better,” and collapses on the bed in a weepy heap. “It’s all over now, all over now”. We’ve all been there right?
Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head! “Wistful Past” later swings bouquets of flowery Johnny Marr flourish as Usbeck parades the promenade, hand-in-hand with her disenfranchised disappointment: “Leaving me so sad / Is it in any way fair?”. Musically Soda Shop often favours the “less is more” route, the simplicity of “melody and malady”—never more so than on “Melancholia”, which sounds like Buddy Holly shooting for Elvis’ “Blue Moon”, all midnight alley cat bass and cymbals shimmering like rain. “Along the way I lost my smile and I’m not getting it back,” sighs Usbeck to empty skies. Fortunately “Longing” brings some early morning sunshine kisses, but its bright-eyed optimism proves short-lived as the smoky, after hours slur of “Fools Paradise” finds our heroine dark drunk and smouldering. “You look so good / I can’t look twice,” she exhales in a “this wont end well” drawl.
Soda Shop ends not in delinquent despair, though, but with a last dance and a haymaker. The surftastic swinger “Keep Swimming” is the coolest, breeziest pop cat in town. “The ocean’s blue and I’m stuck with you,” it beams. A postcard of bubblegum dreamboats and candy lovehearts, it’s the catch of the day. All that’s left is for the newly wise ‘n’ witty “Grow Up” to kick Mr. Heartbreak forcibly in the nuts and ride off into the sunset. “O Why! O Why! / D’ya leave me like that?” Usbeck hits back before hissing “Fire! Fire! Fire!” and slipping into a black leather jacket. It’s a swoonsome, semi-heroic ending to a short but dreamy debut that’ll leave little cartoon cupids floating around your head for days. Dance away the heartache, folks.
// Notes from the Road
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