On a cold-snap Saturday night in a crowded, airtight, windowless Boot & Saddle, Allo Darlin' brought some breeze and brightness.
They couldn't help it.
With three albums (including the just-released We Come From the Same Place), the Anglo Australian quartet has experience at crafting sweetly sunny, smart pop with innocent yet contemplative lyrics whose hard jangle and flittering flights of funky fancy are reminiscent of Scotland's Orange Juice. But this band's chiming, charming vocals and effervescent, experiential lyrics come not from a wonky Scot but from Australian singer/ukulele player Elizabeth Morris, a fresh-faced, pixie-haired lass whose light, sharp alto is as open as her expression of glee - often in the lively embrace of sad-eyed bewilderment.
To the accompaniment of a tom-tom-heavy shuffle and a reverberating guitar that might make Duane Eddy green with envy, Morris opened "Neil Armstrong" with bicameral emotionalism. "I am tired of feeling confused / And lest my words be construed / I can't separate what's real, but I know that I believe in you." She never blindly gave herself over to the sway of obsession. "Bright Eyes," a catty duet with guitarist Paul Rains (and his distorted jangle) showed objective distance ("You took my cigarettes so what else will you steal?"). Yet Morris was never calm and collected enough to reveal her heart's yearnings.
Hard-strumming her uke with the "ooh-wah" backing of the boys (a nice gender twist on Phil Spectorish 1960s girl-group pop), Morris swung through "If Loneliness Was Art" ("Can you feel the pulse / my heavy heart race?") before turning "Darren" into a peppy tale of dogged preoccupation. "I can stay forever hanging out," she repeated, mantra-like, throughout the melody's hypnotic sonic display.
Still, Allo Darlin' didn't shy from teasing lyricism. Bill Botting's melodic, thumb-plucked bass during "My Heart is a Drummer" sounded so much like "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" it was only natural to bite off a piece of Cyndi Lauper's classic with the audience joining in for its "they just wanna" coda.