ALBUM: The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
October 6th, 2017
If you’re anything like me, you won’t have properly listened to The Darkness (save for accidentally turning into a Christmas countdown show) since their debut ‘Permission To Land’ first skyrocketed up the charts in 2003, and brought us such memorable TV moments as a man in a chicken suit on Top Of The Pops, or that same man in a music video having a bath on prime-time TV.
I haven’t seen lead singer Justin Hawkins in the flesh since he came to our rural, middle-of-nowhere town under the moniker Hot Leg for our one and only summer festival in 2009, an event to which he made an entrance by driving a quad bike through a farmer’s field (it was too cloudy to skydive, of course).
To say that an album by The Darkness is a blast from the past is an understatement; it borders on the redundant. It’s two levels of nostalgia – recollection of a band who are a throwback in themselves – but, that’s exactly how they want it, and their falsetto, squealing-guitar aesthetic is in full, unashamed swing again for their latest effort, ‘Pinewood Smile’.
Of the music, they still write incredibly catchy, sturdy rock songs. The initial trio of tunes, ‘All The Pretty Girls’, ‘Buccaneers Of Hispaniola’, and ‘Solid Gold’ all have a great rhythm and mandatory barnstorming solos. Given who made this, it’s strange how serious this album becomes in parts; there’s a certain heavy bite to the riffs, and a sincerity to some of the lyrics that threaten to overturn the applecart. ‘Lay Down With Me, Barbara’ is a later return to form, and probably the best track on offer here.
There are misfires, specifically tongue-in-cheek ‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love’, in which we are reminded that the 80s, while hilarious re: fashion choices, was a weird era with bad attitudes that we probably shouldn’t be celebrating anymore. ‘Stampede Of Love’ similarly is pitched as a funny love song to an overweight woman, but it’s weirdly vicious in tone, like a Jonathan Coulton song without any of the gentleness.
A very talented joke band who came good, it’s tempting to consign The Darkness to the bonfire of ‘Oi Oi’-lads-rock that should have been held at the end of last decade (adorned by an effigy of Kasabian). But, in truth, it’s very difficult to dislike them, most because their hooks are so good, but also because their humour has always been self-deprecating.
Written by Chris Yeoh (@Chris_Yeoh)