There has to be one transitional moment for any band that makes the leap from shouldabeens to stardom. It could be a life-changing gig, an instant of international infamy or, in Allo Darlin’s case, a song.
Much as I admire the many strengths of Allo Darlin’s second album, Europe, it consolidated their position as purveyors of smart guitar pop rather than took them to the next level. Dear John, though, has the extra kick to take them further still. I would say it sounds like Orange Juice (Louise Louise) or early Smiths or Jonathan Richman in 84, but it sounds most like Capricornia, which means it sounds like Allo Darlin, only better.
This is pop music as simple, urgent and infectious as it gets. It’s clever, too, from the dramatic enjambment to the cheeky pinch of the Modern Lovers’ “don’t let our youth go to waste” reconfigured as the pay-off line “don’t let the evening go to waste”.
UNSCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT: I DJed this (ok, it was my turn to on the ipod) at a barbecue this week. No one of the 20 people present had ever heard Dear John before. Everyone present started to move. Hips swayed, toes tapped and soon a group of three started full out dancing. Dear John is an instant hit. People get it straight away. Does the digital age have its equivalent of the old grey whistle test? If so, this was it and it passed.
Dear John is the b-side of Allo Darlin’s xmas single, Only Dust Behind, which is itself a lovely song – especially with the image of the lawyer throwing champagne up in her hair – but xmas 2012 will surely be remembered in the Allo Darlin annals as the moment they crossed over.