Operatic, joyous and utterly, fearlessly bonkers…
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 1 June 2015
It’s a fine line that gossamer thread between affectionate, good natured ribbing, and just plain taking the piss. And The Darkness walk that line better than most. Yes, we know certain aspects of rock may look a tad ridiculous to outsiders but we love it, live for it. You take it too far and you become Bad News, purely a comedy band. Get it a bit wrong and you have GWAR (remember them?). Ronnie James Dio got it right but I think it was unintentional and Steel Panther get it right on purpose! It’s hard to read Justin Hawkins’ arch, raised eyebrow, cheesy grin. How much is comedy and how much is simply down to the fact that they are a bit daft? Who knows! And that is why it works. That, and the fact that they are a damn good band. Let’s draw a discreet veil over 2012’s Hot Cakes. This here is the comeback album and it, like the band, walks that fine line. There are moments of high silliness and there are moments where it just plain rocks.
If you’ve heard ‘Barbarian’ you’ll know that things start off seriously silly. The Oliver Postgate-sounding narration lets us know that we are deep in Captain Pugwash territory – although there actually is an Ivar The Boneless! It’s not just a comedy name! And despite Hawkins’ claim that the chorus will cause “grown men to shit directly into their pants”, I’m pleased to say that I survived unscathed… it is a belter though!
The daftness continues with ‘Hammer And Tongs’, a brilliant Stones pastiche (even down to the individual Keef ‘n Ronnie solo’s) with a brilliant, seaside-postcard lewd chorus that they pull off (fnarr) perfectly. And perhaps best of all we have ‘Mighty Wings’, which has echoes of ELO and Queen in their full-pomp flight. A bizarre yet brilliant mix of defiantly 80’s style big keyboards and shiny huge modern riffery. At one point it all drops away only to begin building up again. It’s operatic, joyous and utterly, fearlessly bonkers.
Over on the other side of the line we have 2 or 3 almost AOR style ballads – straightahead, melodic and genuinely moving, the title track probably being the best of them. And we also have some great rockers. ‘Open Fire’ is goth rock brought kicking and screaming into the cold light of day of 2015, with ‘She Sells Sanctuary’-style guitar bookending some unapologetically spandex-clad solo’s. Meanwhile, ‘Mudslide’ is one of their AC/DC bruisers and is 3 minutes of bluesy boogie glory with a big, messy climax (…sorry).
The album ends with Frankie Poullain taking over vocal duties for the lighters-in-the-air chantalong close, ‘Conquerors’, and there we have it. They’re back. And praise the lord. We need them as much now as we did in 2003. Lowestoft’s favourite rock Vikings are staging a daring smash and grab on the somewhat dour British rock scene, looting and pillaging as they go, adding colour, ambition and flamboyance to these austere times. Who knows what the next album will bring, what side of the line it will fall on but we need their bad teeth and jumpsuits. Don’t get me wrong, I love Royal Blood, but they’ll never write a ‘Roaring Waters’, and we all need that in our lives!
8 out of 10
- Open Fire
- Last Of Our Kind
- Roaring Waters
- Wheels Of The Machine
- Mighty Wings
- Sarah O Sarah
- Hammer And Tongs