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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Allo Darlin': Europe


1) Neil Armstrong; 2) Capricornia; 3) Europe; 4) Some People Say; 5) Northern Lights; 6) Wonderland; 7) Tallulah; 8) The Letter; 9) Still Young; 10) My Sweet Friend.

Damn you, Elizabeth Morris. I really, really like you. You seem like a fun person to hang out with for somebody who hates hanging out with people – with just the perfect mix of sarcasm and idealism to pass for «the real thing». Smart, but not condescending. Stylish, but not garish. Pretty, but not beautiful. Childish, but never infantile. Hipsterish, but never over-the-top outrageous. A fine, upstan­ding example for any 21st cen­tury girl who might be looking for one.

So why then did you have to go and make your second album... no, not a «carbon copy» of the first one, more like an endless set of variations on one particular style? Essentially, if you have al­ready heard ʽThe Polaroid Songʼ, you have heard most of Europe. If ʽThe Polaroid Songʼ is your life, afterlife, and post-Apocalypse rolled in one, Europe will bring utter satisfaction. And hey, I like it too. But when your entire LP consists of upbeat, monotonous twee-pop, stubbornly based around jangle, jangle, and even more jangle, you just get to thinking: «hey, wait a minute, I kind of thought ʽsunshine popʼ was more than just that?!..»

The basic sound of Allo Darlin' remains as delicious as it ever was. The jangle is vivacious and friendly, and Morris' voice is a master weapon: as long as she keeps it that way, no song released by the band will ever be utterly worthless. But that's just it: the sound. The sound totally triumphs over the songs, all of which are interchangeable. The individual bits of magic, such as the heart–breaking guitar riff on ʽMy Heart Is A Drummerʼ, are nowhere in sight. God knows I've tried looking — a miserable failure every time. Just one pretty, generic jangle pattern after another. Enough, in the end, to make you crave for some AC/DC.

The only exception from the formula is ʽTallulahʼ, which is just Liz and her ukulele. Feather-light, touching, pretty — problem is, the rhythmic pattern is just about the same as the one in ʽHeart­beat Chilliʼ, and the vocal melody is hookless. It's as if she's just expressively reading a little bit of her diary, accompanied by a little strumming. Is that the way you save the world? And don't tell me that Allo Darlin' aren't here to save the world. They are. They just need to stop sucking their lollipops, 'sall.

ʽNeil Armstrongʼ and ʽCapricorniaʼ start things off with probably the strongest jangle patterns of 'em all. In about five seconds' time, you are already acquainted with the major charms of the for­mer (a little folk-rock riff, reminding of Dylan's ʽI Don't Believe Youʼ), but you will have to wait about fifty seconds for ʽCapricorniaʼ to hit its full stride and become a full-fledged Byrds-appro­ved extravaganza from mid-1965 — all that's missing is invite ol' man Crosby to sing backup.

I refuse to name any more names, with the possible exception of ʽThe Letterʼ, which does ac­tually try to re­create a little of the echoey magic of ʽMy Heartʼ. It would force me to be more cri­tical, and I don't want to be any more critical. I like the sound, I like the band, I'd like to replicate millions of clones of Elizabeth Morris to replace the millions of clones of Rebecca Black, but I just cannot, for the life of me, remember any of these songs. Somebody get Sir Paul McCartney to join this goddamn band. Something should be done. A thumbs down is just not right here, yet a thumbs down is still all I have for this disaster. Don't they teach songwriting in Australia?..

Check "Europe" (CD) on Amazon


  1. Excuse me? I mean this is a dull sort of question a reviewer gets asked all the time, but for the love of God - did we hear the same album? It's fine if one likes it a little less than the debut, but calling it a disaster is just melodramatic. Personally not a great fan (though I do appreciate the lovely nod to The Go-Betweens), but the songwriting is actually gutsier, more confident, less anaemic - certainly nothing here as embarrassing as "Woody Allen".
    The melodies? Catchy, perfectly hummable. Don't tell me you can't remember them - can only be explained by weeks of listening to The Books.

    1. To each his own, I guess, so I'll just say this: "gutsy" is definitely not a word I'd ever think of using in conjunction with this band...

    2. Yeah, I agree - however, you can never go wrong with the good old comparative degree.

  2. I think in Australia maybe Mr Nick Cave teaches songwriting think so

  3. Neil Armstrong & Capricornia are keepers. Everything else sounds the same but with fewer catchy bits. So overall a big MEH on this record.