Review Summary: A fun but flawed return for The Darkness.
Generally speaking, satirical music isn’t my kind of jam. It’s not that I’m against the likes of Tenacious D, Steel Panther, or Bloodhound Gang, but there’s a tediously restricting pattern attached to their approach; a shelf life as it were. The thing is, the aforementioned acts in particular have released great debut albums – lightning in a bottle that captures a certain kind of humour that works for them and their music. The problem is, where do they go from there? For a minority of bands, they try and build a more credible reputation for themselves. Dick Valentine’s Electric Six is a prime example of this: a band that has released a colossal fourteen studio albums since 2003’s Fire
– all of which showing excellent musicianship and eclectic ambition. However, it wouldn’t be unfair to assert they never quite got over the comical “Gay Bar” and “Danger! High Voltage” hits that established their career – albeit not for a lack of trying, I might add. So, for the sake of staying relevant, in a lot of cases, the Spinal Taps of the music world resort to regurgitating what has already worked for them, to the point of those once novel jokes becoming an insufferable prediction for every proceeding record thereafter. I feel for the predicament these bands get into as well; it’s a situation that inadvertently backs them into a corner, and ultimately results in them falling into a niche market for the long run.
In the case of The Darkness, their turbulent career has seen a mixture of both approaches. The fickle results have broken the shackles of fatigue a couple of times during their musical endeavours, but it seems we’re at a point now where they are doubling down on a specific sound. For any other humour-orientated band I would have normally given up on them by now, but this is the same band responsible for reviving the catsuit at the turn of the millennium – and in truth, the band holds a fair place in my heart from the days of their meteoric introduction. Permission to Land
is a borderline masterpiece in regards to how it handles the classic sounds of heavy rock with their own bombastic characteristics. It’s a lean, no-frills rocker; filled to the brim with hard-hitting riffs, indelible vocal work, and lyrics to match. As time has progressed though, despite One Way Ticket…
and Last of Our Kind
being worthy additions to their portfolio, they’ve never been able to capture that same spark the debut album had.
The biggest problem with modern The Darkness is that they keep trotting down a repeated path that strips them of both their tongue-in-cheek humour and fiery musicianship: the mundane acoustic ballad that subdues all of the talent within the band in favour of spotlighting Justin’s lyrics, which have nothing substantial or funny to say. To Easter is Cancelled
’s credit, it doesn’t walk down this road as often as Pinewood Smile
, but it still becomes a victim to flat songwriting at times. The album certainly kicks things off promisingly, with the Queen-esque harmonies, 70s-rock-possessed guitar solos, and extravagant instrumental backing, which delivers on painting a clear picture of the excessive era of heavy metal. Once you get the endorphin release from the album’s thunderous opener however, you’re met with “How Can I Lose Your Love”, a bland rock number that unleashes a vintage wobbly synth backdrop under mid-00s Foo Fighters riffs. “Live ‘til I Die” isn’t much better either, swapping humour for a biographical tale of Justin’s rise to stardom made on his own terms. The problem isn’t so much the message, but more on how it’s represented: the by-the-numbers guitar and drum work makes it all fairly average stuff, but with the omnipresent acoustic guitar clanking away in the background, there is a couple of jarringly laughable moments where it all strips down to sound like an unintentional Flight of the Concords parody.
It’s not a total bust though; this is a significant improvement over Pinewood Smile
, and to a lesser extent Hot Cakes
, showing moments of excellence outside of “Rock and Roll Deserves to Die”. “Heart Explodes” is a noteworthy ballad that manages to bring the necessary skills to the table – namely the soothing solos, great harmonies, and infectiously soaring hooks. “Easter is Cancelled” brings the breakneck classic sound of the band back to life, while “Choke on It” offers the modern rock chug with a Royal Blood styled explosion at its chorus. It’s also fitting that the album ends with some Eddie Van Halen finger tapping for the closing segment of “We Are the Guitar Men”. It’s just a shame that these moments are broken up so sparsely, preferring to subject you to an odd blend of classic rock riffs and the aforementioned, detrimentally bland, ballad style of recent years. If you’re a fan of The Darkness, this shows glimmers of the good ol’ days; it’s not a bad album, but it is hindered with a lack of understanding on what made the band so great to begin with. So, prepare to experience as many rough moments as there is smooth ones.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
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