Since their return in 2012 with the Hot Cakes album, THE DARKNESS have unleashed a steady stream of rock and roll greatness upon the masses. And quite frankly their live show is not to be missed, either. Since that comeback record we’ve been graced with Last of Our Kind, Pinewood Smile, and a scorching Live at Hammersmith album. These guys certainly haven’t been resting on their laurels by any means. So here we are in 2019 and the band has now hit us with Easter Is Cancelled (out now, Cooking Vinyl), their sixth overall and first ever concept album. I always get nervous about these because all-too often the result is an unholy mess. Sure, there is the occasional exception but by and large I tend to come away unsatisfied.
So, how does THE DARKNESS’ foray into this type of thing measure up? Actually, pretty damn good for the most part. That’s not to say it isn’t flawed, though. And don’t ask me exactly what the story is; I’m not doing your homework for you. The ingredients that make this band very good are there. Justin Hawkins hits those crazy high notes while making it sound easy, brother Dan Hawkins has his army of keen riffs and sharp solos, bassist Frankie Poullain brings the thick-ass bottom end, and drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor lays down the big beats. As a unit they work quite well, even if the songs don’t quite always hit the mark.
Opener “Rock and Roll Deserves to Die” had me scratching the old noggin the first time I heard it, but the more I listened the more I liked. “How Can I Lose Your Love” and “Live ‘Til I Die” mine that vintage rock territory we know so well. The only thing wrong is the abrupt way both of them end. I was like, “Wait, what? It’s over?” Still, it’s solid, catchy stuff. But the biggest and bestest track for me has to be “Heart Explodes.” Lyrically and musically this song deserves to stand alongside any anthem these boys have written and I can’t wait to experience it live next tour. Simultaneously bombastic and beautiful, this is the perfect number.
Title track “Easter Is Cancelled” is a rockin’, rollickin’ good time with a few mellow moments sprinkled in for good measure, while “Heavy metal Lover” is uhhh, interesting to say the least. It has potential, but it suffers from an identity crisis and is kind of all over the place. Liked it, didn’t love it. Things pick up nicely with “In Another Life.” Hawkins can sing with real soul and heart, something he does on this one. This was an album standout for me from Day One, and features one of the best guitar solos as well. Closer “We Are the Guitar Men” ends things on an uplifting and positive note, and wouldn’t sound out of place on a 70’s recorfd someplace.
Listen, at the end of the day, this is not a bad album by any means. It’s just that when it comes to THE DARKNESS I’m used to being blown away right from jump. This record I had to sit with for a bit before I could fully appreciate it. The songs that hit me did so just like they were supposed to, which makes up for a couple falling short. Under no circumstances would I tell you not to go out and buy Easter Is Cancelled because that’s just madness. I will tell you that this record is a grower, so give it a few spins before making your final decision on whether you dig it or not. You’d be surprised what you might pick up the second or third go ‘round.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “In Another Life”, “Heart Explodes”, “How Can I Lose Your Love”, “Easter Is Cancelled”, “We Are the Guitar Men”