THE DARKNESS – Pinewood Smile (Album Review)


Even though the release date for this record is October, I received this in July for review and this one came out of left field for me. I follow the band’s various updates through their feeds and such, but quite a lot of it is cryptic and silly fun that the band represents so well, so was unprepared for new music from The Darkness.

When they released a new song “All the Pretty Girls” some months back, I took a listening spin in a digital sense and was happy with the sound. Not groundbreaking, but good enough to appease the need for new music from one of my favourite bands.

I have been now been supplied with a preview copy of the upcoming release Pinewood Smile and, as I write this, I am on my second full listen through. Likely by the end of the review, I will have once again spun it digitally a few more times in full.

The release begins with “All The Pretty Girls” and, as mentioned earlier, it is a solid track.  It rocks, has the signature Justin vocals and is lyrically and musically fun. Since their last release, Rufus has solidified the drumming role and, being as this is his first recording with the band, I am very much looking forward to his signature sound throughout.

“Bucaneers of Hispaniola” had high hopes for me, as I have spent much time on this Caribbean Island. It is heavy, rocking yet lacks some sort of structure to latch onto. It is also misspelled; perhaps this is on purpose or just a mistake on the preview release…or maybe I am missing something altogether.

“Solid Gold” has also already been released, with a great video accompanying it and is a solid song. It has a classic rock groove to it and. when paired with the video, works extremely well. I often find I gravitate to songs by The Darkness more so when there is a video that illustrates just how much fun these guys are live.  The chorus is tongue in cheek entertaining and the whole tune sonically pleasing!

Next we have “Southern Trains”. Wow, hard and heavy tempo! However, overall it does not take me anywhere. I don’t necessarily feel the need to skip it, but I likely would not also pick it for a Playlist.

The sound slows right down for “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry”. A song like this highlights not only Justin’s vocal range, but lets Rufus add some vocals as well. The entire range of The Darkness as a band is evident on this tune. Dan’s guitar work shines. The backing vocals from Frankie and Rufus are evident. A  good tune all around.

“Japanese Prisoner of Love”. is a title I would have never put together. It begins with strong guitar riffing and solid drumming. Are we in for a treat from The Darkness? Another anthem staple? A minute in and the quick tempo slows right down, picks right back up and is heavier. I’m still waiting for it to really catch my attention, but as much as I want to love this song, something is missing.

Next up we have “Lay Down With Me, Barbara”, which is lounge-like and includes a Barry White sounding vocal in it. Not for me.  Likewise, “I Wish I Was in Heaven” does not go anywhere for me.

On the 9th track (“Happiness”), I am rewarded for my persistence and dedication. This is the signature sound of the band in all of their glory. Everything about this song is perfect! Solid guitar, solid chorus and vocals, and a tempo that fits just right. I hope this is released as a single with a great video!

The final song is “Stampede of Love”. The humour is evident and is once again paired with some amazing vocals from both Justin and Rufus in both deep and high vocal ranges.  A good song to complete the collection.

Overall, there is some really good music here, and I do promise I am not holding The Darkness up to Permission to Land expectations. Heck, I loved One Way Ticket & Last of Our Kind (not so much Hot Cakes) and I do think I am mature enough in my listening not to do that to a band/artist this far into their career. There is just something missing. Is it the production? Perhaps. As I wrote earlier, I expect to listen throughout a few times before the end of this article and I keep coming back to the production and presuming the band may be in need of more direction in the studio. I am sure they are at the point of doing what they want, but some outside perspective, tweaking and advice may take the songs to the next level.

Would I still buy it? Yes – it is good rock n’ roll music, worth the purchase and to hear a song such as “Happiness” is a space shot well worth it!  As always, I will look forward to listening to the band live.

Tracks to try: “Happiness” / “Solid Gold” / “Stampede of Love” / “All the Pretty Girls”

Blair De Abreu

Buy: Pinewood Smile

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