Released by: Cooking Vinyl
Release Date: October 6th, 2017
Rufus Tiger Taylor
1. All The Pretty Girls
2. Bucaneers of Hispaniola
3. Solid Gold
4. Southern Trains
5. Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry
6. Japanese Prisoner of Love
7. Lay Down With Me, Barbara
8. I Wish I Was In Heaven
10. Stampede of Love
In 2003 The Darkness stormed straight to the top of the UK charts with their smash debut Permission To Land. In a musical landscape then dominated by teen pop, hip-hop and garage rock revivalist, their brazen classic hard rock sound with its twin guitar attack and vocalist Justin Hawkins’ wailing falsetto seemed an unlikely recipe for success.
On the strength of the hit single I Believe In A Thing Called Love, Permission To Land went on to crack the US top 40 and be certified 4x Platinum in the UK.
Unfortunately, amongst inner squabbles, substance abuse and the departure of bassist Frankie Poullain the band would splinter after their 2005 sophomore release One Way Ticket To Hell And Back.
After an almost six-year hiatus, 2012 saw the reunited original line up of brothers Dan and Justin Hawkins, Poullian and drummer Ed Graham return with the critically well-received Hot Cakes. Graham would soon bow out to be replaced by drummer Emily Dolan Davies for 2015’s fan favorite Last Of Our Kind. Davies was soon replaced by Rufus Taylor, son of Queen’s Roger Taylor in May of 2015, thus solidifying the lineup.
Having enjoyed the band’s earlier efforts I was certainly looking forward to Pinewood Smile when I read of its impending release. However, my initial listen left me feeling a little underwhelmed and the new batch of songs didn’t quite connect with me the way some of their previous material had. However, with each repeated listen to the insane catch melodies and sing along choruses continued to worm their way into my brain.
Pinewood Smile makes it evident that the band’s sense of humor is as much intact as their bombastic hard rock chops. From the self deprecating nod and wink of All The Pretty Girls, “Shocked and startled by some peculiar twist of fate / Don’t know how it happened, but I’m punching above my weight / I’m pinching myself, you’re nothing like the girls I usually get / Everyone assumes I bought you off the internet” to the satirical bravado of Solid Gold with it’s straight to the point chorus of “And we’re never gonna stop / Shitting out solid gold”, the band walks the line between self-aware fun and downright silliness with ease.
In addition to uptempo rockers, Pinewood Smile throws a few curve balls along the way, with the slightly sappy but somehow endearing 12 string power pop of Happiness and closing track Stampede Of Love, a delicate ballad that inexplicably ends in a short barrage of studio chatter and 30 seconds of unrelenting thrash.
In rock’s current climate of either overly angry or introspective bands, it does my heart good to hear an album of big fun rock every now and then. Pinewood Smile is unlikely to win over many new fans, but if The Darkness’ brand of swagger, pomp, falsetto and over the top cheekiness is your cup o’ tea, this ten song collection is definitely with giving a few spins.
Reviewer: Dave Burke