Allo Darlin’, ‘We Come From the Same Place’ – Album Review
Allo Darlin’s newest, ‘We Come From the Same Place,’ is a polished pop record with a fixation on the past. This is the band's third record and their follow-up to 2012's 'Europe,' a record that was itself full of ephemeral moments: two friends meet in the park to bemoan the death of a pop star (presumably Michael Jackson); one friend writes a letter to another about the Silver Jews.
On 'We Come From the Same Place,' Australian-born singer Elizabeth Morris evokes more feelings than she does specific moments -- snapshots of shouting karaoke at a college bar or sitting in the sunshine on a suburban block -- all in the name of, as the title suggests, finding what little common ground we all have, and then decorating the sentiments with dreamy pop-rock.
The band expertly recalls the best of suburban music's varied post-Ramones history. Morris' ukelele takes center stage a few times, as it has on previous Allo Darlin' records, but here it's a sound so atypically not-lo-fi that it could be mistaken for a guitar. Moreover, the band foreswears any less-than-perfect elements in the name of giving both a drive and a sparkle to Morris' delivery. On 'Angela,' bassist Bill Botting and drummer Michael Collins bob together like late-period Cure, a sound as neat as your mother's minivan.
Speaking of the suburbs, the clean clunk of Botting's bass, on 'Bright Eyes' and elsewhere, recalls Mike Dirnt and Matt Freeman; meanwhile, Paul Rain's surf-y licks dress up the songs in a coat of sea-foam blue. A little less shine might have made for a more interesting listen -- the album's title track is grounded by a post-punk riff that's been exorcised of all of its punk and most of its post-, too.
Most of these sounds serve as just more tools in Morris' kit, part of an ongoing effort to construct times and places with emotional gravity. 'Crickets In the Rain' recalls 1992, suburban evenings and swimming pools; 'Half Heart Necklace' jumps forward to teenagerhood, a pinnacle of raw emotions and high-risk love. 'Kings and Queens' feels like a warm reconstruction of a not-totally-distant memory, proclaiming: "We are the kings and queens of love" -- the kind of claim one might make on a euphoric drunken night, then forget, then remember again years later. Morris recalls moments when emotions were at their sharpest -- the placid contemplation of childhood; besieged, overwhelming adolescence; the drunken heights of young adulthood. The loneliness of the album's opening scene seems more recent still: "Magnetic to me in a southern Spanish bar / Ordered another round of cheap Jagermeiste r/ Drag myself across a chipboard dance floor/ I didn't know who I admired anymore." All of these relatable moments in service of disarmingly simple statements that snap up all the meaning: "The truth is, when I realized I loved you, it was like everything I'd ever loved had come back."
The act of looking backward doesn't always provide much clarity. Morris understands that while wandering toward the past might be emotionally stirring -- when it's not downright masochistic -- the road doesn't really lead anywhere. "It's easy to see things begin, it's hard to see where they end," she croons at the close of 'Crickets in the Rain.' In the span of three minutes, on a pretty arrangement, clear endings don't exist.
But that's why pop songs are only three minutes long.