Justin Hawkins and co are a funny old bunch. They rose to fame with their 2003 tongue-in-cheek debut ‘Permission To Land’ and slowly declined until the band not only left their iconic bass-player Frankie Poulain. Justin himself also concentrated on his side projects (which also involved collaborating with Steel Panther) and the rest of the band formed Stone Gods. By 2006 it was as if we would never see another Darkness album again. Alas in summer 2012 we were treated to their come-back album ‘Hot Cakes’ which was made for the phrase ‘return to form’.
The reason I mention this is because the artwork of The Darkness’ new album ‘Last Of Our Kind’ references the iconic cover of ‘Permission To Land’ Not only does it feature the famous spaceship, the main colour is hot pink. Maybe the band see this is their true ‘return to form’?
The album opens with the epic ‘Barbarian’ a song about Viking settlers in the five-piece’s home town of Lowestoft. It is 100% Darkness and a supercharged opener for the LP. If this isn’t on the soundtrack for Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok there is something wrong with the world. We even have the legendary Justin Hawkins screech in the chorus. Following this is the equally driven latest single from the album ‘Open Fire’ which starts with a sitar-style riff, echoing their forgotten 2005 second album ‘One Way Ticket’ which more or less was when the novelty was wearing thin. But fear not! This track is like The Cult meets AC/DC rather than a Spinal Tap reject. You could even say this is this album is The Darkness’ most ‘serious’ yet – and we’re only on track 3!
The title track, ‘The Last Of Our Kind’, is 80s soft-rock all over. Taking a leaf out of Hawkins’ buddies Steel Panther its a semi-power ballad. A great song, especially for old school fans. One thing this record definitely has is brilliant riffs, and tons of them! Speaking of which, Roaring Waters is equal parts AC/DC and Motley Crue. Great guitar work and vocal harmonies but eventually gets repetitive and feels a bit filler, rather than killer. ‘Wheels of The Machine’ is the token power-ballad in the shape of ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’. A plus about this track is the backing vocals are recorded by 236 Darkness fans.
‘Mighty Wings’ is a huge gear change. Opening like a mix between a 70s sci-fi soundtrack and Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ and then shifting in to a mighty thrash metal riff similar to that of Metallica or Megadeth. This slowly morphs in to a synth-y hard rock track, which is the best thing about this band – you never know what to expect next. Darkest track on the album and highlight track for sure. Mudslide is a return to their humourous ‘cock rock’ that made the Lowestoft lads famous. Opening with a gruff voice saying ‘This is no double entendre… this ain’t euphemism..this is real life.’ It might just be me but I don’t get this one. There’s even a bit of blue-grass mandolin to make this track even more strange. ‘Sarah O’Sarah’ is another joke title but plays like a bad love song. Again another filler track. So far this is a mixed bag.
Track 9 ‘Hammer and Tongs’ is more what we expect from the retro-rockers. The album should have more of this kind of music. Old school fun. Instead we get a lot of filler ballads. Closing track ‘Conquerors’ is , you guessed it, another ballad. Yet the vocals are much more raspy than the usual ones we hear from Mr Hawkins. A decent track but yet another low-tempo ballad, and sadly another filler.
As mentioned before this is a almost one big mixed bag. You have some amazing tracks at the top of the record. Some decent album tracks and some mediocre filler tracks. Not a bad album when talking about The Darkness or their genre, at all. The sad fact is we might never get another ‘Permission To Land’ but hopefully this is the beginning of something great. Watch this space.