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The Darkness

Pinewood Smile

Review by Larry Toering
The Darkness have been around long enough to catch one thing or another about them, but their latest release Pinewood Smile brings them closer to the attention of many who’ve just been curious up to this point. The disc comes recommended as an introduction as much as any thus far by not only standing up to their own previous works (since the year 2000 when they came on the scene), but surpassing much of it in the process. Front man Justin Hawkins and his brother Dan Hawkins (drums), have their act well-polished by now. The end-result is a hodgepodge of everything this band are good for, from that signature falsetto to incendiary guitar driven glam rock. It’s all done very tongue-in cheek with a charm that goes a long way and makes it easy to see why they’re so in demand.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
All The Pretty Girls
They spare a few seconds getting underway on this excellent opener before going into full bombast mode to provide an edgy opener with the usual Darkness bells and whistles. It’s appropriately placed to get the disc up and running with Justin Hawkins practically stealing the limelight by the time he belts out some screams that go beyond his usual falsetto. There is no dimmer switch on his voice that way.
Buccaneers of Hispaniola
As the title suggests, they go way out on this one, with the guitars taking a major front seat and some incredibly bombastic but very cool energy making it a Darkness pleaser.
Solid Gold
I really like this song and put it up there with the best in their catalog thus far. It really is a show-stopping track with an all-accessible appeal for airplay, as well. If there is anything comprehensively epic on this release, look no further than here. 
Southern Trains
This is where the bombast pulls no punches and starts driving the disc with everything they’ve got. It’s almost like a chant with the layered shouting vocals. It’s all up to their standard and then some. The guitar plays as much a role as the vocals, but they never compete for your attention.
Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry?
This is actually half-way bluesy and very tasteful as a contrast to what is so far rocking. This is the perfect time to show where a ballad fits in. It’s not the best track on the album, but the acoustic work around the electric is what makes this track shine so well. 
Japanese Prisoner of Love
You’ve got to admit that they like to play with cool titles as the disc wears on, and they do it with all the right intentions. The drums own this track as well as the falsetto vocals do, and you get some political satire on it.
Lay Down with Me, Barbara
This track is another barnstormer, but it starts off softly and contains occasional easier listening spots with that signature falsetto doing the business. It's delivered along with some bluesy guitar fills, making it another pleaser.
I Wish I Was in Heaven
Singing about life as we know it, this comes with again both soft and harder factors. It’s mostly all lyrics and vocals dominating this track. 
Happiness
This starts off with what sounds like kids playing on the beach, with some acoustic sweeping that comes in with the vocals. There are essentially a lot of layers added throughout. They turn in what is (along with “Solid Gold”) probably the most pop oriented track.
Stampede of Love
The album closes out with a cut that starts as ballad. The falsetto stays strong, but the vocals also combine a low register as he goes back and forth between the two. The song does have an energetic mid-section before a line reminiscent of the Beatles “Blackbird” ends it on a fabulous note.
 
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