Sunday, May 31, 2015

Album Review: The Darkness - Last Of Our Kind

The Darkness have always been a joke. Can we get the out of the way? They've never been as obvious as Steel Panther, but everything The Darkness has done in their career has been a ludicrous send-up of the rock and roll excesses of the 70s. From their image, to their lyrics, and especially Justin Hawkins' screaming falsetto, their career has been one long-running joke about how ridiculous rock is. They started out as a good joke. "Permission To Land" was straight-faced, and one heck of an album. It stands up as a pure testament to the power of good ol' rock music. But everything after that, when they had to live up to the success their joke brought them, has been an unmitigated disaster. From the breakups and lineup changes, to the progressively worse records, The Darkness is a shadow of their former selves.

Proclaiming this to be their version of Rainbow's "Rising", this is the last time I'm going to give The Darkness a fair shot.

The one place the band has always excelled is in the guitar department, and this time is no different. The Hawkins brothers have a knack for coming up with simple and catchy riffs, and the one that opens the first track, "Barbarian", is another great one. Unfortunately, every bad tendency the band has utterly ruins the track. There is meaningless narration both in the beginning, and again before the solo. Add to that a chorus that consists solely of shouting the title, then screeching like a bad King Diamond impression, and the song itself can't be considered anything but an utter failure. It is neither rocking, nor funny, and certainly isn't good.

It's not a coincidence that when the band plays it straight on the title track, it's the first time in ages that they've come close to living up to their potential. The band's trademarks are there, and Hawkins lets loose a few unnecessary shrieks, but the song is strong enough to allow for those kinds of detours. The falsettos are an accent, not the entire identity of the song, which is the only way that the band is ever going to sound good.

When "Roaring Waters" opens with a truly dirty, nasty little guitar riff, I want to bob my head and love the song. And then it gets to the chorus, which is practically non-existent, and I can't help but wonder where the song is. That's the case throughout most of the record, where really good moments and ideas are squandered by horrible decisions, and generally lazy songwriting. There are elements here that could have been turned into a good record, but The Darkness relies so much on their schtick that they don't put in the work to come up with those songs.

All jokes run their course after a while, and The Darkness have long since done so. The only thing I can say about them is that if the joke isn't funny, it needs to stop being told. If they were to buckle down and try being a serious rock band, I think they can put out a good record again. But as long as they're more interested in making videos with animated Vikings, and seeing how much they can get away with, they're always going to be derided, and rightly so.

"Last Of Our Kind" isn't a good record, and in all honesty, it wouldn't sadden me if the title turned out to be prophetic.

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