Saturday, 28 February 2009

On Quotation : Allo Darlin'

Allo Darlin' did not play any covers at the London Pop Fest last night, nor did they use any samples, except that, in a sense, Elizabeth Darling is, herself, a sampler. For besides her deft lyrical fillips and winsome melodic turns, one of the most interesting things about the songs of Allo Darlin' is their use of quotations. On hearing the ghostly backing vocals in 'Henry Rollins Don't Dance' sing "Having the time of your life," from 'Dancing Queen', or Johnny Cash's sombre "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine," (sung by an actual Cash impersonator on the forthcoming recording of 'Heart Beat Chilli'), one might be tempted to comment on the postmodern sensibility, the intertextual play of signifiers that inevitably lead to further signifiers, but this approach strikes me as overly reductionist (in the sense of Woody Allen's "Hey, don't reduce my animal urges to psychoanalytic categories!"). For Allo Darlin's songs exist in a world, perhaps not so dissimilar to the world of Alan Warner's Morvern Callar, of discos and mixtapes, of "car trips with car tapes," a world where one's everyday expressive language is thoroughly and inextricably suffused with the language of pop songs, and phantasies of the complete relationship are always already phantasies of being Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, or Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson, so that to say, "You're the one that I want woo-hoo-hoo" is somehow more personal, more direct and more honest than to say, "I love you." And because this is not just the world Elizabeth herself is living in, but the world her audience are living in, the world we are all living in, each of these little quotations acts like a hook that draws you into the song, condensing layers of meaning with incredible concision, and forever changing, not just the song in question but equally the song from which the quotation is taken (in a similar manner to the working of Carl Stalling's Looney Tunes music). I am sure that I will never hear that particular lyric from 'I Walk the Line' without thinking of a bowl of chili with two heartbeats in its recipe, nor will I hear the Grease mega-mix without picturing a disgruntled Henry Rollins refusing to dance to it.

Allo Darlin' will be releasing an EP on Wee Pop Records in March.