Yes, their music is redolent of many other bands. Yes, they are shamelessly flamboyant, but they are one of the most identifiable British rock bands of the last decade. It's been a bumpy ride for The Darkness in the last few years and one that has certainly been oh so rock and roll: they've experienced the highs of chart-topping success, the crashing lows of drug addiction, the struggles of separation and their joy of their subsequent reunion.
Pinewood Smile is certainly their best album of their reformation, but it's all a bit Viz at times. It would appear that The Darkness has become the musical version of Beavis and Butthead replete with profanity, plenty of (sometimes humorous) lyrics about excrement and smutty adolescent commentaries on love and sex. It's all done with glam rock fun and frolics that we have come to expect. They do, however, approach a fine line about prison rape in Japanese Prisoner of Love. Musically though, for the most part, it's like they had never been away.
Their fifth album has all the hallmarks of a great Darkness album with plenty of huge stadium anthems like All The Pretty Girls and Buccaneers of Hispaniola and comedic tight trouser belters such as Stampede of Love. The Darkness is, in many ways, like a self-aware Spinal Tap even poking fun at the biz in Solid Gold. A public flogging of Southern Trains (in the track of the same name) sweeps in from nowhere and feels like a brilliant drunken rant – the kind the complaints department would hang up on you for. Lay Me Down Barbara is deliciously kitsch with cringe-worthy lines like 'lay me down Barbara, beneath the candelabra'. It's filled with sloppy romantic tropes that we all hate – but secretly love.
Towards the end, the album loses its pertness and begins to sag which lets the quality tracks down. It has the feel of too much playtime about it in places. But for all the arsing around, let's not forget that these guys really can play their instruments. There are some terrific licks from Dan and Justin Hawkins, Frankie Poullain's bass work is on fire and the addition of Rufus Tiger Taylor (son of John) on drums lifts the album out of the realms of parody and forces you to sit up and take all the craziness seriously.
The notion of a Pinewood Smile fits the band's profile perfectly and just like its Hollywood counterpart it's all tits and teeth, illusory, charming and not to be taken too seriously.
Groupie Rating 3/5