REVIEW: The Darkness – Last of Our Kind (Christmas deluxe edition)

NEW RELEASE

Last review before Christmas!


 

Scan_20151221THE DARKNESS – Last of Our Kind (2015 Canary Dwarf deluxe holiday edition)

If there is one thing we collectors hate, it’s buying a rare collectible version of an album, only to see it reissued later with more tracks!  I waited ages to get the Japanese printing of the brand-new Darkness album Last of Our Kind, featuring two bonus tracks.  Now, just in time for Christmas, the Darkness have released a seasonal deluxe edition, with four bonus tracks this time, and special packaging that looks like Darkness wrapping paper being torn open to reveal the CD inside.  Even so, I had to order this CD in from Europe.

This counts as your annual seasonal content here at mikeladano.com, and it’s my only seasonal content this year!  Humbug.  Unusually for a seasonal post, this one is 100% rock!

Buying the album twice hurt a little bit less because it’s really, really good.  The Darkness have quality standards, and they have not dropped between albums.  They also had a new member, the talented drummer Emily Dolan Davies, who sadly couldn’t stick around and has since been replaced by Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen sticksman Roger Taylor.  Emily plays on all tracks herein, and she does so seamlessly.  On first spin it would be hard to tell that original drummer Eddie Graham wasn’t around anymore.

Laden with the screams of flighting Vikings, “Barbarian” opens the album heavier than expected.  “Barbarian” storms the gates, leaving trails of blood behind it, but fear not!  “Open Fire” is fast n’ catchy hard rock n’ roll, the way the Darkness has always done it.  The high vocals are toned down, with Justin Hawkins singing in his normal voice for most of it.  His throat has acquired a little bit of grit to it (light sandpaper only) which he uses effectively on “Open Fire”, which would have been a hit had it come out 10 years ago.

The very best track on the album is #3, the title track, boasting one of those Darkness choruses that has become their trademark and strength.  “Last of Our Kind” rings down as the highlight album and indeed one of the best songs to come out in 2015.  Just like he did in the days of yore, Justin lets his voice rip, while laying down Lizzy-like guitar harmonies with his brother Dan.  If singles were a still a thing, this would be the one.  You’ll notice how Davies accents the song on drums the way Ed Graham used to.  She doesn’t overplay, but she punctuates it where it has to be.

Rather than having used up all their ammunition on these first three great tracks, The Darkness have plenty more shells in the belt.  “Roaring Waters” is a mid-tempo groove, and almost lacklustre except for that slippery Hawkins riff.   Then you need a ballad, so you get a ballad: “Wheels of the Machine”.  It’s not as pompous as “Love is Only a Feeling”, but still has the golden Justin voice that makes their ballads either unique or unpalatable, depending on your tastes.  I say, turn it up.  You’ll especially want it loud on “Mighty Wings”, which has a neat spacey 80’s sci-fi keyboard intro.  Don’t be mistaken, for “Mighty Wings” rocks with a groove so chunky that neck strain is a real danger.

“This ain’t no double entendre.  This ain’t no euphemism.  This is real life.”  Well hey, a mudslide is a weird subject for a song, but that’s what “Mudslide” appears to be about!  “It’s a fuckin’ mudslide!” says Justin, to reiterate his point, after lamenting the loss of his “dear beloved gazebo” in the natural disaster.  Fortunately, this song kicks lots and lots of ass.  I wonder how many song lyrics reference a gazebo?  “Sarah O’Sarah” has a vaguely celtic feel due to the mandolin.  It’s an album highlight, sounding much like the Darkness’ second LP, One Way Ticket.  Davies proves her mettle on the chorus section, a gallop of percussion that frankly Eddie Graham didn’t seem to have the chops to do.  “Hammer & Tongs” shares its pop-chorus bent, but has some juicy slide guitar backing it up.  There is even a slight Stones vibe in the gee-tars.  The proper album ends on “Conquerors”, a ballad that serves as the dramatic pompous outro, featuring Dan Hawkins taking the lead vocals.

This deluxe CD continues on, with four bonus tracks, the first two of which are also on the pricier Japanese import version.  “Messenger” and “Always Had the Blues” are fine as bonus tracks, with “Messenger” being album quality (and then some).  Lush vocals from the back create swirls of melody that stick in your ear like gum in your hair!  The real gem among the bonus tracks is the newbie “Million Dollar Strong”, which has a sweet 80’s riff (think Dokken) and a horn section for added oomph!  The fourth track is their second Christmas single, “I Am Santa”.  With an obvious “Do They Know It’s Christmas” bassline and beat, plenty of folks will find a nostalgic glow on this one.  I especially like the line referencing “Ferrero Rocher”, a candy I always look forward to every Christmas.  Like the chocolates, “I Am Santa” is sweet and delightful.

My only disappointment:  2013’s non-album single “The Horn” was not included as a bonus track.  That leaves it frustratingly unreleased on a physical format.

4.5/5 stars

Japanese version:

Merry Christmas, and stay safe!

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36 comments

  1. The only Darkness I own is Permission To Land. That’s a good throwback glam record. Great review Mike and man u are the diehard collector! Myself I never went that hard core a few times perhaps but your the King Of Collectibles! KOC is what we can call Ya! Hahaha…
    Have a good few days off Brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hopefully Rufus stays in this band. He really is a good drummer.
    Too bad you had to buy the album twice. I heard rumours of a New Years version with The Horn as a hidden bonus track. Maybe third times the charm. ;)
    The guitar work on Open Fire has an 80’s vibe for me. It starts with an 80’s New Wave sound mixed with The Cult. Even the vocals have kind of an Ian Astbury feel. I like it.
    Glad to hear Justin’s voice is still awesome. Last Of Our Kind sounds like it could have been on Permission to Land, or One Way Ticket.
    I Am Santa is weaker musically, especially the drumming, but it is a throwback to those 80’s Christmas rock songs, so fitting this time of year.
    A 4.5/5 from Lebrain is a big deal, so I may go and order this one myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope Rufus stays too. I really liked Emily but she wasn’t in the band for long although apparently she really kicked ass in the studio.

      My question about Rufus is this — did he get in shit for wearing that headdress? That is a hot button issue today. I dig it — but I’m not native. I always have loved headdresses. But I’m Italian.

      He’s a young fella but he has a hell of a career ahead of him. I’m sure Emily will be up to great things too, be it with Bryan Ferry or a band.

      Like

      1. I wonder about the headdress. I don’t think it is as bad if a British person wears it, as it would be if it were a white American. The British person is not going to have had a relative that persecuted a Native American in the past, so he is wearing it because it looks cool, and there is no need to be PC.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Let me throw another one at you.

          For a Halloween party back in ’96, a couple buddies dressed up as Jackson and Travolta in Pulp Fiction. One guy had to be in blackface and wig to do Samuel L. Jackson. But it was done out of pure love for the actor.

          Nobody ever said anything except compliments and “what are you supposed to be?” And now, that very same thing is VERY no longer PC!

          I believe his intentions were only good, and there was nothing wrong with it, dressing up as his FAVROUITE character from his FAVOURITE movie.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I think the world has gone too far with the PC stuff. Wearing blackface on Halloween is NOT racist. Saying Merry Christmas is NOT offensive.
          Just like Facebook, and other social media, no matter what is said or done, someone, somewhere will find a reason to be offended by it, so I’m sure the headdress thing will cause a problem.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. As I get older I find it strange how many things that were OK and even encouraged as kids (like dressing up as cowboys and indians for Halloween), but these things are now considered no longer OK.

          See, here’s the thing.

          My dad grew up in the era where EVERY kid dressed up as cowboys or indians. And they watched all the movies, from the good John Wayne ones to the cheap comedies that were made for kids, with all the awful stereotypes etc.

          But this led to an interest in actual cowboys and indians…and history.

          So my dad read books about the real history of the west. He’s no stranger to it. He knows what happened, and he doesn’t think it’s OK to wipe out an entire continent of humans to make room for colonization.

          So in that case, dressing up and playing games that are considered offensive today, led my dad to being a smarter wiser man. How is that bad?

          Liked by 2 people

        4. Agreed. The same way that kids that are playing war are not war mongers. They’re playing. It actually got me interested in the history if war, but yet opposed to the idea of it in today’s society. We need to study our mistakes of the past and strive to be better.

          Like

  3. I honestly never listened to this lot – I just thought they were a novelty act. Still do really, but here’s a 4.5 which makes this a wee tad difficult to ignore! Not to mention a few others expressing a liking for this lot …

    Maybe I’ll need to give them a listen … maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They have novelty aspects J, they have humour in their music which doesn’t always work — you don’t want to become a parody. However after buying their first album and hearing the musicianship and songwriting, I knew they were serious about the rock, and 4 albums later they are proving it. They have never strayed from pompous overblown but hard rock.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha man, I love it when you tell these stories about buying albums multiple times. The life of a Collector! :)

    I’m with Deke, the only one I have is PTL, and that was on your recommendation on a Taranna trip. I think it was $2.99, cheap anyway.

    This new record sounds fantastic. And a 4.5/5 from you is sales pitch enough. The band owes you a commission, you;re likely to shift a lot of copies for them!

    Hooray for Seasonal Lebrain Content!

    Merry Merry Dude, all the best to you and your lovely wife and your whole family for this holiday season!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow. My wife and daughter saw Gaga. They were eye level, 50 feet away from her. Those would have been awesome seats to see The Darkness. If only I had known. Although trying to drag a teen girl out before Gaga hits the stage would have been tough.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, I hate to see studios getting so greedy they keep rereleasing basically the same thing, slightly different packaging, maybe an extra song.

    p.s. Merry Christmas!

    Like

  6. Never really a fan of these guys but both those clips you featured Mike were quite tasty might explore this one a bit further into the new year. And agree with boppinsblog, Open Fire has a very Cult vibe about it which of course I dig…

    Regardless, nice thorough review this one ;)

    Liked by 1 person

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