THE DARKNESS

"Last of Our Kind" (+180 Records; 2015)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The Darkness have continued to be one of the most surprising bands in rock'n'roll. After disappointing sales of their "One Way Ticket to Hell and Back" the band parted ways for awhile, re-grouped for the almost ignored "Hot Cakes," and then came roaring back with the first single from their new album "Barbarian."

"Barbarian," coupled with an animated video and a great, authentic hard rock sound, make you sit up and take notice that The Darkness is back and that their new CD, "Last of Our Kind," is their best since their debut almost a dozen years ago. It's chock full of beefy guitar chords, irresistibly catchy lyrics and melodies and a pure rock sound that just isn't found often enough these days.

The album never gets better than its first track, the aforementioned "Barbarian," which is a soaring, crunchy rock'n'roll history education anthem of sorts. But if often comes close. The very next track, "Open Fire," is instantly addictive and it doesn't stop there. "Last of Our Kind" is full of rock'n'roll tunes in the Queen/Cheap Trick/AC/DC vein, the kind of songs you used to hear all the time on FM radio.

Those of you who find lead vocalist Justin Hawkins' legendary high-pitched voice annoying (and I know you're out there) will find him much more reserved here. Don't get me wrong, Justin puts his famous pipes to proper use, but it's not in the often hilarious (but effective) way he used it on such tracks as "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" from the first CD and, even more hysterically, in "Every Inch of You" from "Hot Cakes." Instead, Justin scales it back a notch and "Last of Our Kind" truly showcases his impressive singing voice.

Sure, there's a lull here and there, as usual with the more "ballad"-type songs but, overall, "Last of Our Kind" is an album that all Darkness fans, and fans of pure, authentic, honest rock'n'roll, are sure to love.

The Darkness: Justin Hawkins, Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and Rufus Tiger Taylor.

For more information, check out http://www.thedarknessrock.com.  

"One Way Ticket to Hell and Back" (Atlantic Records; 2005)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I was really hoping The Darkness would hit it out of the park with their second CD. After the surprise success of "Permission to Land," the band seemed poised to bring a new level of fun and faux majesty back to rock'n'roll. 

Well, with "One Way Ticket to Hell and Back," The Darkness don't hit it out of the park, but they do hit a decent double with a good lead toward third. It's may not be a home run, but it ain't a strike-out either.

The CD starts out strongly with three hard rockers before starting to get a little (more) quirky on us. There's the Top 40 pop rock of "Dinner Lady Arms" and the schmaltzy ballad "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time." "Hazel Eyes" throws a real wrench in the monkey works, sounding like a love song from a rock'n'roll version of "Miss Saigon." "Bald" takes things back a little to the classic rock mode and "Girlfriend" blends vintage boogie-woogie rock with Justin's unique vocal talents. "English Country Garden" will blow your mind with its Elton John-ness (think "Crocodile Rock" pep) while the final track, "Blind Man," seems to be a solo performance from an Andrew Lloyd Weber play.

Can you say "eclectic"?

What's perhaps most surprising is how  well it's all done. Despite the fact that -- as it ever will be -- Justin's voice is an acquired taste, "One Way Ticket" is produced with class and style and clarity. Of course, the great Roy Thomas Baker produced the CD and you wouldn't expect anything less. The production on this CD is nearly perfect.

One thing I do miss on this CD is the previous CD's sense of humor. Don't get me wrong - "One Way Ticket" does indeed have its laugh out loud minutes (Track two, "Knockers," and its chorus of "I love what you've done with your hair" is hysterical), but nothing here is as funny as the yodeling chorus of "Get your hands off my woman, motherfucker" from "Permission to Land."

I guess any disappointment here could be the result of high expectations. I can't think of a recent CD that was as heavily hyped as this one. Regardless, The Darkness's sound is still fresh and lively enough to make "One Way Ticket" anything but boring. I don't think this band is going away any time soon.

The Darkness: Justin Hawkins - vocals, lead guitar, sitar, Mini-Moog and other synthesizers, piano; Dan Hawkins - guitars, bass guitars, marching drums, tubular bells, tamborines, triangle, backing vocals; Ed Graham - drums; Richie Edwards - backing vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.thedarknessrock.com.  

"Permission to Land" (Atlantic Records; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

You won't want to like The Darkness. The first time I saw their video for "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," I didn't want to like them, either. In fact, as I sat here in the Rough Edge home office, watching the video on my computer screen, my wife came into the room, watched about a minute of the video with me, and then asked, "This is supposed to be a joke, right?"

But I'm willing to bet that if you listen to this CD more than once, you're not going to have a choice. Because - despite the blood-curdling annoyances of the thing - this friggin' CD is catchy as hell.

"Permission To Land" is pure and simple 80s rock'n'roll (what we called "metal" back then). It's big guitars that sound a little like early AC/DC. It's hook-laden choruses and songs written to sing along to. It's big, loud and silly just like "heavy metal" was back in the 80s. I mean, Jesus, all you have to see is the band wrestling that damn rubber space squid in their video to get an idea of how cheesy The Darkness is.

But, for once, that cheesiness actually works for a band. In fact, without that intentional cheesiness, you might get the impression that The Darkness take themselves seriously. And, if that was the case, you could never stomach "Permission to Land."

I know what you're thinking: If the guitars are great, the songs catchy and the band lively, what, exactly, are these "blood-curdling annoyances" you mentioned earlier?

It's the vocals. Lead vocalist Justin Hawkins sings with a high-pitched falsetto that makes Queen's Freddie Mercury sound like James Earl Jones. And he says "'fing" instead of "thing." It'll drive you nuts the first couple of times you listen to "Permission to Land." You'll find yourself repeating my wife's question: "This is supposed to be a joke, right?" Shockingly, once you get used to it, you can't imagine The Darkness sounding any other way. You may still snicker when Hawkins all but yodels, "Get your hands off my woman, motherfucker!" but your foot will be tapping away at the same time.

The Darkness: Justin Hawkins - vocals, guitar, synthesizer, piano; Dan Hawkins - guitar; Frankie Poullain - bass; Ed Graham - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.thedarknessrock.com.  

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2015 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 May 2017 21:24:56 -0400.