REVIEW: THE DARKNESS – PINEWOOD SMILE (2017)

You’re never gonna change them, all you can do is surrender

How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they’re forever banned? – Bob Dylan: “Blowin’ In The Wind, 1963.

Fuck you, Southern Trains, we’re not getting anywhere – The Darkness, “Southern Trains”, 2017.

Some professor somewhere would have a name for it, postmodern something or other probably, and both Dylan and Justin Hawkins are, in their own way, doing some social commentary on current affairs. It’s just that one has won the Nobel Prize for literature, and the other….well the other, he doesn’t give a shit.

Instead, since 2003 Hawkins has fronted the band he was born to do and you best believe the bloke is a rock star. But – and here’s the thing that The Darkness never get enough credit for – their songs are clever.

“All the pretty girls, like me for who I am / All the pretty girls, when the record goes platinum / Plenty of action, massive attraction, when you’re selling out stadiums / All the pretty girls… and their mums” he witters on the opening track on “Pinewood Smile”, conveniently titled “All The Pretty Girls” and of course he’s taking the piss, The Darkness were always in on the joke and you’d best believe they are here too.

That’s why they can get away with writing a song called “The Buccaneers Of Hispaniola” and still make it anthemic, and why the aforementioned maelstrom “Southern Trains” is a singalong belter.

Purely and simply, they can write songs. Effortlessly quirky and using language in a way that no one else does, but still entirely accessible and not full of forced wackiness as many would if they attempted to do this.

“Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry” actually approaches heartfelt, (“I wish I wasn’t ugly” offers Hawkins over a shimmering slice of sunshine) but then, only The Darkness would follow this up with a track like “Japanese Prisoner Of Love”. In fact, scratch that, there has never been a song like it, and never before has the phrase, “a stunning white supremacist called Klaus” been used in a song of any sort.

There is something marvellously English about “Lay Down With Me, Barbara” (“I don’t wear pyjamas, trust me darlin’ you wont need that chemise”), and “I Wish I Was In Heaven” eschews the OTT rock for something a little restrained.

“Happiness” might begin with the line “I think I’ve shit meself” but is a mid-paced celebration of summer, and the closing, stripped down and almost country “Stampede Of Love” is gorgeous – at least it is until they can’t resist having one more subvert of the genre with a closing metal riff.

Equal parts AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Queen, the band aren’t doing anything musically challenging, but that’s never been the point. They came swinging out of Lowestoft all those years ago to stop rock being po-faced and promptly sold 1.5 million copies of their debut and give or take a hiatus here and drug fuelled row there, that’s what they’ve done ever since.

Or put it another way:” we’re never gonna stop shitting out solid gold” – as they say themselves on the catchy as hell tour de force “Solid Gold”. The same song also suggests they’ve been promised fellatio, and when you get down to it, all rock n roll should be about fists in the air hooks and blow jobs. That, ladies and gents is why the world still needs The Darkness.

Rating 8/10