You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of THE DARKNESS than me. Even my two buddies, Scott, and A&GS staffer Ryan aren’t quite as insane as I am for this band. From the very first time I heard them in 2003 that was all she wrote. I got Permission to Land for my birthday and in the decade plus since I’ve had it I can’t even fathom how many spins it’s gotten. The same can be said for the next two records One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back, and Hot Cakes. In other words, when it comes to THE DARKNESS, you could always count on me blaring them ad nauseum. Which brings me to newest record Last of Our Kind, out today through the band’s own label Canary Dwarf Records. After several listens I’m at somewhat of a loss. Don’t panic, I’ll explain…
I’m not sure what I was expecting. There are songs that flat-out rock and totally sound right at home among some of the group’s best recordings, and there are others that range from OK to one that I cannot get into at all. A prime example of this is “Roaring Waters” a track that I can only describe as a plodding mess and a sure-fire momentum-killer. I also wasn’t immediately sold on opener “Barbarian” when it was first released as a single. But, like athlete’s foot or an STD, it grew on me, and before long I found myself feebly attempting to emulate singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins’ falsettos in the car.
In stark contrast however is “Open Fire,” the second tune they wisely chose to release which despite a similarity to a certain song by THE CULT in places is still one bad motherfucker! Just try not repeating this one several times. The title track is another one that will have longtime fans smiling at not only Justin’s wails, but the guitar interplay between him and brother/guitarist/album producer Dan Hawkins. The good old fashioned rock riffage combined with that chorus make this a definite highlight. “Mighty Wings” features all of the big-assed balls-out pomp and circumstance we’ve come to expect from the more layered compositions these guys are capable of. Chugging riffs combined with synths on the hook definitely make for something memorable.
If it’s vintage DARKNESS you want, then I think “Mudslide” just might be the song for you. Frankie Poullain’s bass and (now former) drummer Emily Dolan Davies keep a tasty groove going that I really got into and I’m sure you will, too. “Sarah O’Sarah” clicked for me right from jump because it was almost like the younger sibling of “Friday Night” from way back when. The dual harmonized guitar leads sound sooooo good, too. On the other hand “Wheels of the Machine” is simply…nice…not THRILLING, but nice. Not to worry though, “Hammer and Tongs” brings back the fun with a barroom boogie that should be played in pub jukeboxes all across England on Friday nights for the foreseeable future.
Closer “Conquerors” is interesting because it sees Poullain take the reins on lead vocals and you know what? He does one helluva job! This is a great way to end things, and the solo is beautifully done. Overall I think THE DARKNESS did a good job on the record, especially production-wise. This thing sounds just as sexy in your earbuds as it does in the car. But the thing is I’m used to there being NO throwaways, and here there’s at least one, which is unusual. Regardless, I’ll still see them on tour because live they are fan-freakin’-tastic! Ahhh, maybe I’m nitpicking, who knows?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Open Fire”, “Mudslide”, “Last of Our Kind”, “Sarah O’Sarah”, “Conquerors”