British rock band THE DARKNESS is a band that always seems to amuse, and sometimes never even seem to take themselves all that seriously, while also diplaying some incredible musical talent. That trend has continued with the release of their fifth overall studio album, Pinewood Smile. The album is a parody in every sense of the word, title of the album is a bit of a parody itself as Pinewood is actually the British version of Hollywood. The album was written in Putney, some 20 miles from Pinewood Studios and was recorded in Cornwall.
THE DARKNESS still has three of the four originals from the classic line-up era still intact for this effort, brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins man the vocals and guitar while Frankie Poullain remains on bass. Rufus Tiger Taylor (son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor) on drums was the last piece of the puzzle added back in 2015, and this is the first full length album with Taylor on board.
THE DARKNESS seemed destined for greatness with the release of their ground- breaking debut album Permission to Land in 2003. At that point, they looked set to be the biggest band around, however, after their second album, 2005’s One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back, Justin Hawkins checked into rehab and the band was put on hold. They reunited in 2011, and then released 2012’s Hot Cakes and 2015’s Last of Our Kind. While both of those releases had some level of success, it appeared the band would never live up to the incredible heights that Permission to Land obtained for them. However, with a diverse album full of diverse and sometimes downright humorous tracks, Pinewood Smile may just reverse that trend.
There are some tracks on this album that stand tall and make this album much more memorable than the last two releases. The first track, “All The Pretty Girls”, is a look at the difficulty in maintaining relationships when you are a rockstar. It marks the album as a fun frolic, with the characteristic guitar solos Darkness fans love. “Solid Gold,” has to be the most humorous track on the release, with lyrics as blunt as they come, and “Japanese Prisoner Of Love” is almost as amusing, a parody about life in prison and the things that befall the prisoner.
What reminded me so much of Permission to Land with this release, and made me think The Darkness may be back on their way to that initial success, is how much I enjoyed the slower, more melodic tracks. “Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry” is a bittersweet contemplation of the shallowness of media, the music industry, and society in whole. “Lay Down With Me, Barbara” is a straight out love song. It is moody, sensual, and beautifully composed with memorable guitar solos and a somewhat strange ending. “I Wish I Was in Heaven” is full of emotion and deals with the sadness of losing someone you love.
2018 will see THE DARKNESS launch of a documentary based on the band, and they currently are out on a new tour. With humorous lyrics full of falsetto tones, sometimes THE DARKNESS is not a band to be taken too seriously, although Pinewood Smile has proven once again that THE DARKNESS is a band full of serious musicians.