Soccer Team is composed of longtime Dischord employees Matt Nelson and Melissa Quinley. The band’s debut, “Volunteered” Civility & Professionalism, must have been inspired by a combination of years working for that reputable label and the fact that anyone these days can record music as a producer/songwriter/musician. The album’s first half-second gives away the band’s distance from Dischord’s early history, when the label helped establish the hardcore genre. Nelson plays guitar and drums for Dischord’s Beauty Pill and does just about everything for Soccer Team, which is unfortunate, considering that Quinley adds a worthy dimension to Nelson’s austere work.
Vivid emotion is portrayed throughout “Volunteered” Civility & Professionalism, but unfortunately the album’s title seems to describe the two band members’ roles: Nelson’s professionalism is too self-indulgent for the album ever to get on a roll, and Quinley’s volunteered civility is too sparse.
Openers “So You Like It Vague, Huh?” and “Solid Ring Fighters” sound like the first layer of complex structures: rather shallow results with just Nelson’s contemplative songwriting behind gentle guitar strumming and distant drums. Quinley’s vocal relief glistens in songs like “We Closed a Record Store” and “Lobster Season,” the latter being a surf-tinged beat over regrettably short tale about how “I have lied and I’ve cheated and I liked it. When you went to Maine and I planned it all.” Many tracks, most of which were recorded on either a four-track cassette or half an eight-track reel, show impulses of mastery, but the brevity of most songs calls to attention to the apparent lack of contributing opinions. Perhaps if Nelson weren’t so professional, more of the songs would assume a more satisfying arrangement of the talent evidenced in these tracks.
The album’s highlight is “Traffic Patterns,” in which Nelson’s best songwriting is threaded through a groovy rhythm of experimental guitars and stomp-inducing drums — all his own doing, except for a cast of supportive hand clappers. The album’s last four tracks catch Nelson messing around with guitars again while meandering into non-sequent songwriting, such as that on “Here’s Why Dancers Smoke.”
Despite a considerable amount of talent that’s apparent in this self-indulgent project, Nelson should have asked for more significant contributions.