The Darkness are back with their new album, ‘Pinewood Smile’, their first since 2015’s ‘Last Of Our Kind’. It’s devilishly sarcastic, with fine musicianship and Justin Hawkins’ deliciously soaring vocals, it’s quite easily their best record to date and is sure to please both fans and critics alike.
The Darkness’s hometown of Lowestoft is set apart, jutting out into the English Channel, the most easterly part of the UK. It’s a fitting location for a band who have never tried to fit in with society, and instead go out of their way to do their own thing, and do it bloody well.
Opening with ‘All The Pretty Girls’, which was the first single released from the album, back in August, is loud and brash and full of drums and guitars, with Justin’s beautiful vocals. The album title comes from this track too, and it comes with a video featuring the band’s trademark offbeat humour.
The track leads nicely into ‘Buccaneers Of Hispaniola’, which is our second favourite track on the album, superceded only by the final, ‘Stampede Of Love’. It’s a swashbuckling song for and about sailors, with very clever – if slightly gory – lyrics, such as,
Tie you like that wanted rogue, till your eye pops out of its socket
Hang you upside-down
And take whatever comes out of your pocket
Slice you nice and thin, so you’ll fit in your widow’s locket
Cynicism is nothing new for The Darkness, and ‘Pinewood Smile’ is absolutely dripping in it. ‘Solid Gold’ is a robust and very sarcastic treatise on the evils of the music industry (“And we’re never gonna stop, shitting out solid gold”), while the next track, ‘Southern Trains’ will be easily understood by anyone who’s had the misfortune of having to commute regularly using their services.
The sarky-ness continues with, ‘Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry’, which could easily be overlooked when listening to the glorious vocals and musicianship. But lines such as “Why don’t the beautiful cry, why am I ugly on the inside?” and “We are all born bubble and squeak in the frying pan of life” are absolute things of beauty in themselves.
‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love’ is a bit of a dodgy title, but the soaring vocals and guitars, as well as strong drums, make up for it. Track 7, ‘Lay Down With Me, Barbara’, takes us back deep into the 70s, and could easily (if you close your eyes) have been by ELO or 10cc. Nice easy rhymes like “lay down with me, Barbara, underneath the candelabra” means it’s not a challenging song, but nonetheless catchy.
‘I Wish I Was In Heaven’ is a slower paced song, but there’s plenty of room for Justin’s soary vocals. On first listen we noted that it was one of the most beautiful songs on the album, and listening again, our opinion hasn’t changed.
‘Happiness’ is a nice summery tune, and is actually a very very happy song, conjuring up visions of the guys from the band strolling along the beach, albeit in full glam kit and with their instruments.
The final track, ‘Stampede Of Love’ takes the EP prize for the best song on this album. Unexpectedly Americana/country style – which should actually have been very expected, given the title, there’s a nice sibling harmony between the Hawkins brothers, and we’d like to hear a lot more of Dan’s vocals in contrast with Justin’s powerful (sometimes overpowering…there we’ve said it) falsetto.
In summary, The Darkness are back – not that they ever really went away – and their new album will definitely bring many smiles, Pinewood or otherwise, to the lips of its listeners.
‘Pinewood Smile’ is out now and can be streamed and downloaded here.
The Darkness will be embarking on a 17 date UK tour through November and December in support of ‘Pinewood Smile’, including a headline show at London’s Hammersmith Eventim Apollo on December 10. The shows are part of a wider European tour, with all dates able to be found here.