Hailing form a Queensland country town referred to locally ‘Twin Peaks, Australia’, where “no one realised that Loopy Lenny was actually a serial killer”, you might expect Allo Darlin’ leader Elizabeth Morris’s lyrical world to dwell upon a multitude of murk and dreary darkness. Not a bit of it; she writes great big, gloriously melodic love songs. “Well, some are about jealously,” she clarifies, “That’s the other side of my coin!”
She’s not one for the run-of-the mill, romantic yearnings either, but rather sophisticated, layered musings, light or deep, happy or sad, aligned with charmingly idiosyncratic imagery and frequently shot through with Aussie humour. Take ‘Let’s Go Swimming’, about bathing with her boyfriend in a Swedish lake, in which she reflects, “I tell you, it feels new/ To be swimming where nothing can eat you.”
Highly charged melodic indie pop (with the emphasis on pop) is the order of the day in the Darlin’s world, contrasting uptempo, life-affirming bursts of energy with softly languid, lap steel-rich reminiscences. Crucially, what the band (guitarist Paul Rains, bassist Bill Botting, drummer Mike Collins) possesses in spades is the ability to lock Elizabeth’s lyrical romanticism into killer hooks and punchy, concise arrangements featuring sweeping backing vocals that should certainly attract any passing Beach Boys fan. But the group’s hallmark is the sincerity of Morris’s lyrics. The antithesis of the ten-a-penny, too-cool0-for school ‘diva’, this is a woman who could not pose if she tried.
Of course, being pop classicists (of a king) one might quibble that Allo Darlin’ are not exactly re-inventing the wheel here and there are certainly some familiar qualities to their sound (Cyndi Lauper springs to mind). So is what they do really so vital? Well, if you want any band to take on one dimensional, Simon Cowell-approved, late-noughties pop, then in both artistic and commercial terms the answer is a resounding yes! “Yeah, we’re the Anti-Cowell,” agrees Elizabeth. “Anti the current Top 20, too. [Those chart songs] are sold as love songs but with every single one its lowest common denominator, ‘pull you for a shag’ stuff. No variations at all. It gets so boring.
Remarkably for a band with such a fully formed sound, Allo Darlin’ have only existed as a fixed unit since the beginning of 2009. Yet, following the unexpected (if still highly deserved) plaudits and play that greeted their WeePOP single ‘Henry Rollins Don’t Dance’ (an impressed Guardian naming it “the best Indiepop song for years”), things have moved fast. Talent spotted by excellent Fortuna pop imprint and with only a handful of songs to their name, they were rushed into the studio with the first single ‘Polaroids’ released this December. The album (putatively titled Kiss Your Lips) follows in March.
Any sense of pressure, I wonder? “I like to keep the stress levels high up until the last minute,” Elizabeth says. “For some whack reason I’ve always done that, it makes me write better songs. I get choruses on the brain. And we are excited,” she admits. “It’s all still new and the best of it is we really enjoy being in a band together. It’s been such a good year!”
A better one to come, I predict.