Anybody who doubted The Darkness’ popularity obviously never saw any of their shows in Australia earlier this year. The band packed out every venue that they played at and now those fans are eagerly waiting for their brand new album Pinewood Smile which they seem to have been teasing us with for months. And while the songs that we have heard over the past couple of months from the album have been good old fashioned The Darkness to a tee you get a strong feeling while listening to the album that this is one that will either be really loved by fans or really hated… there seems to be no middle ground.
Opening track ‘All The Pretty Girls’ is pure Darkness gold while ‘Buccaneers Of Hispaniola’ is pure smooth rock with old-fashioned wailing guitars from Dan Hawkins while Justin Hawkins throws in high notes galore. ‘Solid Gold’ is when the wheels seem to fall off a little though. The opening fat riffs sound great as does the 1980s sound, but when the lyrics centre around the line “shitting out solid gold” it all seems a little more Steel Panther than The Darkness. The same can be said for ‘Southern Trains’ – the heavier sound will impress some people but with lines like “there are f**king assholes everywhere” it’s again a little too Steel Panther for me.
Things get back on track with the much slower ‘Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry’ and the beefier guitars which create a heavier sound on ‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love.’ The great Darkness sound of old returns on ‘Lay Down With Me, Barbara’ and ‘Happiness’, even though the spoken word part on the former does sound a little different to normal. The best track on the album though is ‘I Wish I Was In Heaven’ which is an absolutely amazing rock track. The album then closes with the very country sounding ‘Stampede Of Love’ which again works and even highlights one of the best parts on the album… the funny little heavy outro which does force a giggle from the listener.
At times Pinewood Smile does work it is just a shame that two tracks let it down so badly. Sure as a listener you can easily just skip those two tracks but they do sound badly out of place when you listen to the album as a while. Still parts of the album does re-capture the Darkness sound of old and the album is well worth a listen if you are a truly devoted fan.