When a new album from The Darkness comes in, any self-respecting human being should stop what they’re doing, find a copy and listen. Watching your kid’s dance recital? Leave, they’ll have more. At a wedding? They might divorce anyway. On a Southern Rail train? Well, according to The Darkness, you’re not going anywhere soon anyway.
Pinewood Smile is probably the most Darkness album you’ll hear. At least until the next one. Like its brothers, it’s a lean beast with ten tracks, nothing even remotely near the five-minute mark. Gloriously flamboyant, heavy and the tongues are lodged firmly in their cheeks (as always), The Darkness have created their best album since Permission to Land. Now that they’ve created more albums in their “comeback” era than their original run, there’s a feeling of them hitting their stride, doing whatever they please and inviting you along for the ride. And if you refuse, they’ll just go without you.
Alongside that, they have the youthful exuberance of their newest member. Well, he’s been there for some time now but this is his first album with them. Son of rock royalty (quite literally), Rufus Tiger Taylor, feels like he’s been there since day one the way he spars with the Hawkins brothers and Frankie Poullain. The bounce of the later tracks like “Japanese Prisoner of Love”, “Lay Down With Me, Barbara” and “I Wish I Was in Heaven” are some of the best on the album. Whilst they may be having fun with their lyrics, Justin and Dan Hawkins prove their guitar mettle along with Frankie Poullain’s bass lines. Much like Steel Panther, they actually know how to play their instruments damn well. And the elder Hawkins brother’s voice… well, you’ll still be questioning if his underwear is just a tad too tight.
Meanwhile you have “Solid Gold”, opening with “We’re gonna blow people’s fucking heads off / People gonna shit themselves” which documents the peaks and valleys of navigating the music industry and ensuring the band take a swipe at it for good measure. Opening with a massive AC/DC-esque riff, you half expect a pensioner in a school uniform and Gibson SG to appear in the video. And it’s likely the first song not only to include the title of Artist and Repertoire in a song but double down on it and make it rhyme. They also take aim at Southern Rail in “Southern Trains”, painting a grim picture of the franchise but one all too relatable to someone who uses ScotRail on a regular basis.
Then there’s the bluesy lament of “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry” but it sort of answers its question. They’re beautiful so they have no reason to. Closing out the album is the acoustic number “Stampede of Love”. Imagine Steel Panther’s “Fat Girl” arranged in acoustic format and with a British sense of humour and you’re pretty much there.
If you liked The Darkness before, you’ll find some great tunes in Pinewood Smile, if you didn’t before, this isn’t going to change your mind. The Darkness haven’t tried to reinvent themselves with this new album, there’s no need. There’s no apparent toying of the formula, taking the hard and heavy rock found on the debut and marrying it to the more self-indulgent sound found on One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back. They’ve managed to find a perfect middle ground and whilst 2015’s Last of Our Kind was a return to form, this only improves upon it.
Pinewood Smile is released on 6th October