October 3, 2017 The Darkness – Pinewood Smile (Album Review)
Prepare to be amused, for The Darkness are back with their hilarious new album Pinewood Smile on Friday, October 6, 2017 through Cooking Vinyl. Even the title is a parody, Pinewood is the British Hollywood and the scene is very different from Los Angeles, California.
Their fifth overall studio album, Pinewood Smile was written in Putney, some 20 miles from Pinewood Studios and recorded in the tranquility of Cornwall. Before going any further, for those unfamiliar with the history of the band, Justin Hawkins (vocals/guitar) and his brother Dan Hawkins (guitar) first formed The Darkness in 2003 in Lowestoft, UK. That same year, their debut album Permission To Land brought them multiple awards and adoring fans.
At this point, they looked set to be the biggest band around, however, after their second album, 2005’s One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back, Justin checked into rehab and the band was put on hold. Reunited in 2011, with Bassist Frankie Poullain and adding Drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor in 2015, the band came back strongly with 2012’s Hot Cakes and 2015’s Last of Our Kind, as well as tours with Lady Gaga and Guns N’ Roses. The year of 2018 will see the launch of a Documentary on the band, but before then they are set to embark on a new tour, and oh yea, release Pinewood Smile!
Jumping straight into Pinewood Smile, with truthful lyrics and cynicism born of a time in the limelight where fake is the norm, “All The Pretty Girls” is a rye look at relationships when you are a rockstar. It marks the album as a fun frolic, with the characteristic guitar solos and ’80s styled Rock that fans have come to expect from The Darkness. In a complete change of topic, “Buccaneers Of Hispaniola” is a pirate tune, swashbuckling and dynamic, energetic and fun. It hits a groove from the start that rhythmically holds your attention. Here, the vocals are so high they will make dogs howl, and the whole song is not for the likes of Disney.
Next is the highly amusing and honest “Solid Gold,” which is as blunt as they come, when it comes to the realities of the music business. It is hard not to see the irony, though there is a school-boy level to the humor; it works well with Hawkin’s personality, which shines through the whole album. Furthermore, it rocks out with a solid drum beat that kicks, and a ’80s feel that makes you nostalgic for man perms. This is before by far the funniest and possibly most libelous track on, “Southern Trains,” a short, fast and furious condemnation of the customer service levels of the trains, and it appears to come from direct experiences. Presented as if an advert, or a jingle, this is pure genius.
Changing it up, a melody of intense melancholy, “Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry” is a bittersweet contemplation of the shallowness of media, the music industry, and society in general. The harmonies are exquisite, and the mood created by the music is far more grown up, elegant, and sensitive than the lyrics. Continuing on with gritty riffs and darker vibes, “Japanese Prisoner Of Love” is comical, a parody about life in prison and the things that befall the prisoner.
Moving right along, “Lay Down With Me, Barbara” is a love song. With the air of a different era, it is moody, atmospheric, sensual, and beautifully composed musically coupled with delicious guitar solos and a strange ending. Then, taking a look at the sadness of losing someone, on “I Wish I Was In Heaven,” Hawkin’s vocal writhes and contorts in agony as he imparts the emotion of the song. This is the one track that seems not to go off on a silly tangent lyrically, with real meaning and feelings. This is before the innocent, joyous “Happiness,” which is a silly, reminiscent, teen-dream styled song aiming a swift kick at the holiday romance scenario. It has everything that a novelty summer hit needs, but, unfortunately, it will be released in autumn.
Lastly, for one of the most cutting, un PC, Country and Western songs ever, “Stampede Of Love” musically is a typical Country ballad. There is slide guitar and that traditional twang that screams Cowboys and Rodeos, meanwhile, the lyrics are a mocking story of love for a fat girl, with lines that will make you wince with horror that you are laughing at something so wrong. It finishes with a mad flourish, Punk-style, which can only be explained as someone giving the band triple espressos, blue smarties, and sugary energy drink and alcohol, before letting them into the studio unsupervised. A fitting end to the album.
The Darkness are not a band to be taken too seriously, yet they are serious musicians, the guitar riffs are fine and the solos blistering. Furthermore, Rufus Tiger Taylor has a good pedigree on drums, as son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, and the vocals are note perfect every time. This is fun though, it is to be enjoyed, and some of the lines will make you laugh out loud, and even when the humor is dark, it is never depressing. Each song is full of character, surprises, and wit. If you thought The Darkness were a spent force, time to think again. That is why CrypticRock gives Pinewood Smile 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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