The Darkness – Pinewood Smile (2017)

Pinewood Smile, the new album by The Darkness is a near masterpiece and a career high for the band. (The Darkness has posted the entire album on YouTube for free listening. If you dig it, buy the album!) This review of the album, and The Darkness itself, puts things in proper perspective:

There are those who dismiss The Darkness out of hand as little more than a one-hit novelty act doing a faux-operatic glam-metal piss-take. Those unfortunate souls are A) probably not much fun at parties, and B) missing the point entirely. Rock and roll, especially heavy rock, has become a dour and earnest beast in the past quarter-century or so, plodding along a loud but often joyless path, rife with negativity and self-loathing. Since day one, The Darkness have served as an antidote against this encroaching gloom, a glittery, sequined outpost shining brightly in a vast expanse of brutal grey. Misery and introspection certainly have their place, but so do joy and outrageousness and just plain fun, dammit, and that’s where The Darkness come in. Yes, their songs are over-the-top; they’re also expertly crafted nuggets of kick-ass rock and roll, stuffed to bursting with beefy riffs, intricate melodies, and cocksure swagger. And sure, some of their lyrics might be a little silly, but those great big jagged hooks they’re attached to ain’t no joke. Their newest album, Pinewood Smile, is a bawdy buzzsaw with peacock plumage, a devastating roundhouse right from a manicured fist. Outrageous and opulent yet fiery and muscular, it’s the finest album in their catalog so far and unless you’re a real fuddy-duddy, it’s likely one of the best times you’ll have listening to a record this year.

The new album’s production by Adrian Bushby (who has worked with Foo Fighters) is crunchy and crisp, with the band taking their vocal-layerings and other Queen-like, guitar layerings to a new level, but it is the quality of the songs on this album that makes the record truly superlative. The band is in top form, and have really come into their own in terms of a unique style, an exploratory ‘prog-glam’ still rooted in riff-heavy, Les Paul driven rock.

The sort of sonic exploration we saw with 2015’s Last of Our Kind album, particularly in the song “Mighty Wings”, is extended here with ambitious songs such as “Buccaneers of Hispaniola” and “Japanese Prisoner of Love”, the latter which contains lyrics such as:

Sentenced and sent to the big house
Jump-suited, shaven and de-loused
Solitarily confined, taken by force from behind
By a surly white supremacist named Klaus

Justin’s lyrics can be beautifully silly, in a Tenacious D sort of way, or just beautiful, as on the song “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry?”:

Why don’t the beautiful cry?
It’s only in the movies, it’s never in real life
Why don’t the beautiful cry?
I wish I wasn’t ugly on the outside
But I am ugly…

The album’s first single “All the Pretty Girls” is infectious as hell, an instant rock classic, and the follow up single “Solid Gold” is a hilarious take on the record industry, while the third single “Southern Trains” contains an absolutely killer riff propelling the song forward.

However, my favorite track has got to be the epic song “Rock in Space”, with lyrics featuring The Darkness being sent into space to appease an evil alien race’s desire for more glam rock:

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