The Darkness Last of Our Kind
Of all of the new releases in my Unexpected Year of Dad Rock, a new album by The Darkness was the least surprising, but still hotly anticipated. After years of spending time with other projects the Hawkins Brothers' return with 2012's Hot Cakes was itself surprising and very welcome, but its success couldn't be measured much beyond the album's merit as a comeback - and that's a kind of album which can be fraught with options. New direction? New dynamic? Old school styling to win back the lost faithful? In the end Hot Cakes took a turn for 'more of the same, but moved on a little', with the band being in their thirties, family men and with quite a lot of water under the bridge, the return was 'enough' for all concerned. But even in the world of the comeback, you're only as good as your next album - so what of the follow-up?
Time has again moved on, and on either side of Last of Our Kind The Darkness have lost a drummer - first their core stickman Eddie Graham, then not long after LOOK's release, drummer for this album Emily Dolan Davies; but I think it's an element of the band's newer resilience that they've weathered these changes and forged on, aided for the time being by second generation rock royalty, Rufus Taylor, son of Queen's Roger.
For its efforts the album is something newer also - no older compositions dusted off and given a studio polish (a la Hot Cakes' 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us'), but all new songs, and a new energy. Opener 'Barbarian' is a rip-snorter with a great heavy riff and measured falsetto, and sets the tone for an album about heroes, villains and invasions - see also 'Roaring Waters' which matches 'Barbarian's' story of Edmund the Martyr's fall with the Sack of Baltimore. But that's enough history lessons, because the only history for the remainder of the album is that of 'the rock'. 'Open Fire' is very much Electric-era Cult, and 'Mighty Wings' takes heavy stylistic cues from Queen's Flash Gordon soundtrack with its synths and posturing lyrics. Before you write that one off, though, Dolan Davies' drums in 'Wings' are indeed mighty, and it demands loud volumes to be played at.
I'm less enamoured with the ballads on this album, though Hot cakes' ones weren't hitting the same spots as the band's debut either - but for wat it's worth, I quite enjoyed bassist Frankie Poullain's
vocals on 'Conquerors'. Not a bad album ender - though if you're a fan and a little more discerning, the Special Edition of this album contains four extra tracks including some belters in 'I Have Always Had the Blues' and the Van Halenesque 'Million Dollar Strong'.
In all, LOOK is a big mark up from The Darkness' previous two albums, and easily reaches the top two of a discography of, er, four. It makes me want to hear more, and that's what albums, debuts or comebcks or mid-career ones, are supposed to do.
And I haven't even mentioned the title track. Oh, hang on - yes, I did.