Emily Dolan Davies

#947: Last Of Our Kind

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 80:  The Darkness

 

RECORD STORE TALES #947: Last Of Our Kind

By the time that I decided “enough with the bullshit” and quit the Record Store at the end of 2005, The Darkness were truly one of my favourite bands.

The band’s newest album One Way Ticket To Hell…and Back was really resonating with me.  It was the kind of triumphant rock that felt appropriate as I started my new life, post-store.  Uplifting.  Carefree.  Nostalgic.  I had a Darkness shirt with their logo in silver scroll.  I was downloading rare live tracks from Limewire and buying imported singles.  All the stuff that properly qualifies a person as a “fan”, but with the additional emotional kick that this was “my” band.  I didn’t know anyone else who liked them.  Well, there was one.  I had just met Jen, my future wife.  In her CD collection was a copy of Permission to Land.

Two weeks after quitting the store I was back in the workforce.  I had what I wanted:  a boring job!  There were several days straight of just make photocopies.  Nobody to talk to, and with the clanky-clank of the copying drowning me out, I passed the time by singing.  Specifically, I sang my favourite Darkness tunes.

The most attractive tunes have the biggest and most bombastic choruses it seems.  Huge drum fills, big multi-layered vocals, and all the trimmings.  Songs like “Dinner Lady Arms”.

I used to be able to come close to hitting the notes. Just approximating the correct intonation, because who the fuck cared? Nobody could hear me.

Also on the playlist:  “Hazel Eyes”, “One Way Ticket”, “Growing On Me”, “Givin’ Up”, and “Friday Night”.

I made a Darkness “Greatest Hits” CD with all those tracks, a bunch of great B-sides, and couple bootleg live tracks.  The best of which was a ragged live take of “Givin’ Up”, sadly now lost.  That’s the problem with downloads.  In the golden glow of memory, it was the best version of the song ever!

Sadly, the Darkness were hitting a rough patch.  Justin Hawkins went to rehab to clean up, and then quit the band afterwards.  In shock, the band looked inward to new bassist Richie Edwards (who replaced original Frankie Poullain).  His surprisingly powerful rasp was perfect for a new start.  They reconfigured themselves as the heavier Stone Gods, while Justin launched his new band Hot Leg.  In this battle, Hot Leg sounded more like the Darkness, while the Stone Gods had a stronger album in hand.

Lineup changes continued to ensue.  Original Darkness drummer Ed Graham left the Stone Gods due to ill health, and was replaced by Robin Goodridge, formerly of Bush.  This left guitarist Dan Hawkins as the only Stone Gods member that had been in the Darkness.  Regardless, they managed to record a second, more stripped down album.  This second album was never released, because suddenly in 2011, the original lineup of the Darkness was back!

The comeback album Hot Cakes returned the band to their classic sound.  Most importantly, it was only the first in a series of great albums, the best of which might be 2015’s Last of Our Kind. The title track of which is the most quintessentially “Darkness” of any song they have released since their debut.  The music video features Justin Hawkins at his most Freddie, and a new drummer:  Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen’s Roger.  Talk about rock royalty!

Not to ignore the important contributions of Emily Dolan Davies, who played drums on the album and in the music video for “Open Fire”.  As an in-demand session drummer, Davies was praised by Justin as having “revitalized” the band with her hard-hitting style.  Since her departure, Rufus has held down the drum stool on Pinewood Smile, Easter is Cancelled and the forthcoming Motorheart.

That’s right.  The Darkness have a new album coming.  They may or may not have doomed us to a long pandemic with the prophetic Easter is Cancelled, but they sure are going to rock us anyway.

Long live The Darkness!

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!