Twee-pop has enjoyed something of a resurgence in the past 12 months, with the likes of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Standard Fare releasing albums that have been warmly received outside their usual fanbase. Elsewhere, Darren Hayman‘s on the mend and touring again after being attacked following a gig last year, and even godfathers of indie-pop The Primitives have reformed. It’s all go, and the next band to strike while the iron’s hot are key players in London’s twee scene, Allo Darlin’.
The half Aussie, half Kent quartet are stalwarts of the London club nights still shimmying to the delights of Sarah Records and worshipping at the altar of Belle And Sebastian, and were even courted by Radio 1 last year, with the release of their showcase single Henry Rollins Don’t Dance. Anyone hoping for more of the same won’t be disappointed by their self-titled debut, which is back-to-back kooky, intricate, light hearted tales of love and friendship, with a sprinkling of downbeat ukulele ballads.
Opener Dreaming is unfortunate in that it shows how great they could be if singer Elizabeth Morris shared the mic more often. Its lyrics are typical of Allo Darlin’, delving into a couple’s differing reflections on a night out. It’s a boy/girl recollection of discos, night buses and lust-fuelled longing. On a similar tip, fan favourite The Polaroid Song looks to Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci for musical input and Camera Obscura for its themes – “We all looked so happy, like it was 1973….you said you’d been stock piling all the film that you could find before it all starts expiring and then there won’t be polaroid anymore. Will we still look happy when we’re not so overexposed?” wonders Morris. With layers of flute and an infectious shuffle-beat, it’s four minutes of summer that would crack a smile on the moodiest of listeners.
Once in the mood, it’s time to skip a couple of tracks to Kiss You Lips, a Pipettes-esque, brash attack on retro-pop. Its chant-along chorus is less subtle than their better tracks and some of their charm is ebbed away. Quality is quickly resumed a few tracks along, with If Loneliness Was Art which, while undeniably retro, with its ’60s drums beats and girl band sha-la-la-las, has a curious little story to tell. “You’ve been on your own as long as I recall…if loneliness was art I could hang you from a wall in some Berlin hall,” accuses Morris. Straight after comes Woody Allen, which sees her pondering over who could play her and her other half in the movie of their life. Diane Keaton and Woody Allen won’t cut it, she doesn’t want them to be like Alfie or Annie Hall but, she quips, “Sometimes it gets bad, but it doesn’t get Bergman bad.”
Then comes the gloom. On the whole it’s their downfall – the likes of Heartbeat Chilli and What Will Be Will Be have the potential, with Morris’s uke leading her through her more reflective moments, but fail to hit the spot. The exception is Let’s Go Swimming. One of the album’s highlights, the music is lifted straight from an early Belle And Sebastian album track, but paints a picture even the masters of twee fail to forge. A tale of sitting by a lake in Sweden, taking in its beauty and having one of those life-affirming moments, the hazy, dreamy combination of slide guitar and Morris’s husky voice paint the scene through your ears. “All of the punks in Camden could never shout about it, all of the hipsters in Shoreditch could never style it, all of the bankers in Moorgate could never buy it, this is simple and it’s true.” It’s lovely stuff.
The timing of Allo Darlin’ couldn’t be better – the Aussie portion of the band bring a ray of sunshine that will soundtrack your summer, but its sharp lyrics and occasional down-beat moments mean it’s not sickly sweet. Expect them to grab the indie-pop baton and run with it.