Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Allo Darlin' - Europe (Fortuna Pop!)

There’s nothing as terrible as nostalgia. Well, of course there is, but if you don’t want to turn into one of those deeply backward people who constantly bang on about the past being better, then turn your back on nostalgia.

Nostalgia is what some of my favourite bands excel in. The Smiths used to paint pictures of some of kind of 1950s nirvana and mix them with terrifying social faux pas. Brighter and Harper Lee wanted that girl or boy back. Allo Darlin’, on ‘Europe’ look backwards, for sure, but are more defiant, more optimistic and more forward-thinking than to simply say, “Remember that time when…?”

‘Europe’ is as confident as it can be. Elizabeth Morris sings of friends lost and places long gone, but behind her she has a band that sounds as though they could lift even the most downbeat lyric.

That’s not to say that Morris shrouds herself in a grey cloak of yearning throughout. The title track might paint the picture of a tour from hell, but as we travel through the song, from the motoring mishaps to the sheer defiance of the handclaps at the end, then you get the sense that, after all, things are going to be okay. That’s often something we all need to hear.

Musically and lyrically ‘Europe’ is a quantum leap for Allo Darlin’. Gone are the knowing London references (sometimes swapped for that past life that only perhaps half-existed – who knows?) and cheeky stabs at their friends and peers; and in their place comes a more relaxed sound. That’s not say that we’re veering into Radio 2 territory here – most of the songs retain an edge that it’s sometimes hard to find – it’s just that the clamour to write instant pop hits, as on their first, often-thrilling record, has waned for a more measured approach.

The big tunes are still there, of course. ‘Northern Lights’, ‘Wonderland’ and especially ‘Still Young’ would slip into their first set with ease, but it’s tracks like the gorgeous ‘The Letter’ which give new meaning to a band that are already held close to so many hearts. Again the topic is Europe, of loss and yearning, of being far away from those you love – but yet again, there’s hope and happiness in there.

If you’re still addicted to the instant pop hit of Allo Darlin’’s first album, then ‘Europe’ might take a while to worm its way into your head and heart, but once it does it’s more than likely to stay there forever. Look back, for sure, but don’t stay there.

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