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The Darkness – The Last of Our Kind [Review]

thedarknessalbumlastcd-1The Darkness – The Last of Our Kind
2015, Canary Dwarf Records

Buy the album

1. Barbarian
2. Open Fire
3. Last of Our Kind
4. Roaring Waters
5. Wheels of the Machine
6. Mighty Wings
7. Mudslide
8. Sarah O’Sarah
9. Hammer & Tongs
10. Conquerors

Band:
Justin Hawkins – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Dan Hawkins – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Frankie Poullain – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rufus Tiger Taylor – Drums

Producer: Dan Hawkins

For their first two albums, The Darkness showed glimpses of brilliance. Both a parody and loving tribute to British glam rock, prog rock, classic rock and L.A. glam metal of the 1970s and 1980s, they were a unique group with a unique singer and some very silly lyrics. Combine elements of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with Mott the Hoople and Queen (funny that Roger Taylor’s son, Rufus, is now their drummer) and that’s kind of what The Darkness sounds like.

Unfortunately, the band became a parody themselves when they fell victim to their own excess, success and egos and broke in 2006. They reunited in 2011 and released Hot Cakes the following year. To be fair, it’s an album I never gave a serious listen to despite having loved their first two albums. What little I have heard never impressed me enough to listen to the rest of it.

The Last of Our Kind is the band’s fourth release and something compelled me to give this release a more serious shot. I’m glad I did. This album has the band spreading out their song a bit (although it’s always kinda been all over the place) from the heavy metal “Barbarian” to the Cult-like “Open Fire” to “Mighty Wings”, which would make ELO’s Jeff Lynne proud, to the Zeppelin-esque “Roaring Water” to the southern rock of “Mudslide”. It’s riffs, falsetto singing, gang vocals and melodies galore. I’d like to point out that while Justin Hawkins is still singing in that falsetto style that made many people take notice of the band, he seems a bit more restrained and less over-the-top with it. Sometimes (especially on the first album) it seemed like his singing style was a gimmick that overshadowed the music but The Darkness doesn’t come across that way anymore.

There’s lots of classic tracks from the bands first two albums, but this may be their most consistent release yet.

Highlights: “Barbarian”, “Open Fire”, “Last of Our Kind”, “Wheels of the Machine”, “Mighty Wings”, “Sarah O’Sarah”, “Conquerors”

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THE DARKNESS – One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back

The Darkness – One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back (2005, Atlantic Records)

Track Listing:

1. “One Way Ticket” … 4:28
2. “Knockers” … 2:45
3. “Is It Just Me?” … 3:07
4. “Dinner Lady Arms” … 3:18
5. “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” … 3:46
6. “Hazel Eyes” … 3:27
7. “Bald” … 5:33
8. “Girlfriend” … 2:35
9. “English Country Garden” … 3:08
10. “Blind Man” … 3:25

Band:
Justin Hawkins – Vocals, Guitar, Sitar, Piano, Hammond, Mini-moog, Synthesizers
Dan Hawkins – Guitar, Bass, Marching Drum, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Richie Edwards – Bass, Backing Vocals
Ed Graham – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Stuart Cassells – Bagpipes

Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker

Though Permission to Land is the more successful and better reviewed album, I actually think this is The Darkness’ best moment. The album lacks the heavy crunch of Permission to Land and replaces it with a lush, slick & polished sound backed by all kinds of musical instruments… and this is actually an improvement. I love it.

Though the formula has been polished, the band hasn’t lost their sense of humor. “Bald” is quite the hard rocker, one of the best rock songs of the decade, in my honest opinion, and it’s about, guess what? Going bald! “Knockers” and “Girlfriend” also showcase the silliness of the band.

Truly, a low down dirty shame this album went unnoticed because it has some great moments and the band was really onto something incredible. Of course, the parody became too real as Justin Hawkins entered rehab and the band eventually broke up after initially deciding on replacing Justin. Hopefully the Hawkins brothers can reunite and we can get that third Darkness album.

It must’ve been a dream come true for the Queen-influenced band to get Roy Thomas Baker to produce.

Highlights: “One Way Ticket”, “Knockers”, “Is It Just Me?”, “Dinner Lady Arms”, “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”, “Bald”, “Girlfriend”

www.teamhotleg.com (Justin Hawkins’ band)
www.myspace.com/teamhotleg

www.stonegods.co.uk (Dan Hawkins’ band)
www.myspace.com/thestonegods

THE DARKNESS – Permission to Land

The Darkness – Permission to Land (2003, Atlantic Records)

Track Listing:

1. “Black Shuck” … 3:20
2. “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” … 2:46
3. “Growing on Me” … 3:29
4. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” … 3:36
5. “Love Is Only a Feeling” … 4:19
6. “Givin’ Up” … 3:34
7. “Stuck in a Rut” … 3:17
8. “Friday Night” … 2:56
9. “Love on the Rocks With No Ice” … 5:56
10. “Holding My Own” … 4:56

Band:
Justin Hawkins – Lead Vocals, Synthesizer, Guitar, Piano
Dan Hawkins – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Frankie Poullain – Bass, Backing Vocals
Ed Graham – Drums

Produced by: Pedro Ferreira

“I Believe in a Thing Called Love” was a bit of a phenomenon 2003, causing the album and the single to both go Gold, and while I appreciated the *music*, I absolutely hated Justin Hawkin’s falsetto vocals. But, after enough airplay on the local radio station, I kinda started to like it so I finally broke down and bought the album. Funny enough, I bought it just in time (for $9.99) at FYE because they song *really* took off a few weeks later and they jacked the price up to their usual $18 0r $19.

It’s odd that Hawkins high pitch singing would bother me, because hair metal (my favorite genre) and heavy metal in general are no strangers to high pitched voices and I’ve never had any problem with it. These days, his voice doesn’t bother me at all.

After hearing the album a few times, I wasn’t really impressed with it. I thought it to be average at best, though my fiancee LOVED it and basically kidnapped the CD for close to a year. A few months previous to  their follow up One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back being released, I gave this album a chance and fell in love with it.

I don’t know why I wasn’t getting it the first time around, but this album is a great hard rocker embodying everything that was good about 70s glam rock and 80s hair metal while adding a bit of Brit quirkiness. The influences are obvious here: AC/DC, Queen, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Van Halen and the like.

Unfortunately, the band’s greatness was entirely too short lived, they managed only to put out one more album before the band faded away due to Justin Hawkins entering rehab and later, both Hawkins brothers pursued separate projects.

Highlights: “Black Shuck”, “Growing on Me”, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, “Love Is Only a Feeling”, “Stuck in a Rut”, “Friday Night”, “Love on the Rocks With No Ice”, “Holding My Own”

www.teamhotleg.com (Justin Hawkins’ band)
www.myspace.com/teamhotleg

www.stonegods.co.uk (Dan Hawkins’ band)
www.myspace.com/thestonegods

Looking forward to in 2009…

2008 gave us tons of great rock/metal albums, but we gotta keep movin’ on! Here’s the bands I’m looking forward to most, who are slated to have new albums released:

KISS – THE most looked forward to release for ’09 for me. With Paul producing, promises of a 1970s KISS vibe, and Tommy & Eric in the studio, I have no doubt this album will deliver.

Megadeth – My 2nd most anticipated release. United Abominations was a slight step down from The System Has Failed, but still high quality. I know Dave is going to get it done again.

Heaven And Hell – Dio-era Black Sabbath. ‘Nuff said! Can’t wait to hear what these guys have cooked up.

Iron Maiden – Bruce Dickinson says something new will pop up…

Anthrax – While I wish John (or even Joey) was still in the band, I’m looking forward to the release of Worship Music.

Bon Jovi –  Another greatest hits is in the works for ’09 and Jon & Richie are reportedly working on new material for the next studio album. Richie has stated they’ll be moving away from the country sounds of Lost Highway, which is great news to me. I suppose the hits comp will be the only Bon Jovi release of 2009, but hopefully, the greatest hits record will give us a taste of their next musical step with a new song or two. Despite the recent disappointments, Bon Jovi is a band I’ll always give a chance to win me back.

Ace Frehley – Tentatively planned to be released in Spring 2008, there’s been little word from Ace about his latest solo effort since that season has come and gone. Some song ideas reportedly go back to the early-90s. Is this Ace’s Chinese Democracy? Hey, I hear KISS is putting out a new album in 2009, what better time than Ace to get a bit of that spotlight and release his own album? KISS tour with Ace as the supporting act, anyone?

Hot Leg – The new band from Justin Hawkins, the former frontman for The Darkness, is due for a release in January. From what they’ve released online, it sounds just as silly as The Darkness was and I’m okay with that.

Slash – A new Velvet Revolver album seems unlikely (at least for 2009), but I’m really curious as to what Slash has got in his top hat for a solo release.

Who else?

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