Highlights: Neil Armstrong, Capricornia, Europe, Northern Lights
There was much praise of Allo Darlin’s self-titled debut released in 2010. However, it was also evident that much of this praise was made up of stuff like “well, there’s nothing wrong with this pretty collection of pop tunes” or “not a bad way to spend your Friday night”. That’s rather telling actually – this must be what worthy, pleasant-sounding, anaemic twee pop does to you. Don’t get me wrong, Allo Darlin’ the album was a nice little thing (however, “Woody Allen” doesn’t have much of a melody, does it) – whose wild praise can only be explained by the existence of people easily excited by a sweet-looking, sweet-sounding girl singing about kissing someone’s salty lips.
So what about this follow-up album? For some random reason, Europe has really done it for me. The songs sound gutsier, catchier, more self-assured – admittedly not by much, but there’s no question that the three opening songs can beat anything on their debut. Three glorious pop creations that don’t even make you ask yourself whether this is twee pop or not.
And twee pop it is, of course. Sound-wise, Allo Darlin’ haven’t changed. Pleasant, non-threatening guitars (occasionally quite jangly), ukulele, some violin. What’s not to like? Particularly when Elizabeth Morris’ voice is as heart and soul melting as it was two years ago. Actually, if there’s a more or less clear-cut difference between this album and its predecessor, it’s the absence of male vocals. Not something I welcome (nothing wrong with Elizabeth’s singing – but that brought some much-needed diversity), but I do of course welcome the melodies and the guys’ consistency. Speaking of the former, it’s just one summary gem after another. The first side is pretty much perfect, with “Capricornia” reaching the melodic heights not even “My Heart Is A Drummer” could. While a little less inspired (or is it just tiredness creeping in?..), the second side offers more of the same – the stripped-down “Tallulah” a possible nod to The Go-Betweens.
In terms of quality, Europe shows Allo Darlin’ getting ever so closer to the genre’s greats, like Field Mice and B&S. As for girl-fronted ones – well, I don’t know. Dolly Mixture have absolutely nothing on Morris and co. Brilliant feel-good, hook-filled way to spend your next Friday night. And, for that matter, the whole weekend.