stone gods

#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 Stone Gods – Silver Spoons & Broken Bones (2008)

THE STONE GODS – Silver Spoons & Broken Bones (2008 Pias UK)

…and from the ashes of the beast came The Stone Gods, and they did lay waste to the land.

The “beast” from whose ashes that the Gods rose was The Darkness, an extremely talented band who were looked upon (either fairly or unfairly, you decide) as a novelty act. They split in twain, with singer Justin Hawkins forming the very Darkness-sounding Hot Leg. The rest of the band (guitarist and brother Dan Hawkins, drummer Ed Graham, and bassist Richie Edwards) stuck it out and renamed themselves The Stone Gods. Edwards, a fine singer in his own right, dropped the bass and became the frontman. New member Toby MacFarlaine was brought in on bass.

The lead single “Burn The Witch” was shocking in its metal ferocity.  This was not expected from 3/4 of the Darkness.

What made this band special is twofold. First, the undeniable writing talents of Dan and the band, proving that Justin was not the be-all and end-all of the Darkness.  Second, the voice of Richie Edwards. He truly has his own unique voice, something unusual in today’s soundalike music scene. It is part Bon Scott, part Halford, with a little bit of early raspy Joe Elliot thrown in, and 100% awesome. As a frontman, he was no Justin, but who is?  (Nobody!)

The band stuck solidly to a hard rock/heavy metal direction.  Ed Graham’s got his trademark cave-man drum fills, and it fits like a glove.  Dan’s guitar howls and shrieks like a thing possessed.  Above it all, Richie wails.  These songs rock.  Some, like “Defend or Die” and “Burn the Witch” are scorchers.  Others are hard rock classics.  Three tracks in particular fully qualify as Darkness-level rock anthems.  “Where You Comin’ From”, “Start of Something”, and “Wasting Time” each boast numerous hooks and arena-level choruses.  A track like “Wasting Time” has suitable weekend-ready lyrics.

My friends have all joined the rat race
It’s all suits, shirts and novelty ties
I’m not a fan of retirement plans
I refuse to change my way of life

Just about every song here is a winner; no losers.  It is important to note, however, that the album takes a turn for the lighter around the halfway point.  Indeed, the first three songs are a pure metal bludgeon.  After that, a few early-Def Leppard moments are thrown in (“Making It Hard”).  However it is never out of place, never too soft, never embarrassing.  It is simply a good time.  A well-rounded rock album with fists-a-flying, then a smoke break, and then some ass-kicking.  If you’re wondering why it sounds so good, I blame Canadian engineer Mike Fraser, who just nailed it.

Shortly after the album’s release, Ed Graham departed and was replaced by Robin Goodridge of Bush fame.  That’s him in the video for “Start of Something”. This great lineup recorded a yet-to-released second album.  But the Hawkins brothers could not be kept apart.  Robin returned to Bush, and the Darkness have enjoyed a very successful second era with brothers Dan and Justin back in action together once again.

Dan has indicated that the second Stone Gods album will eventually see release. If so, then this debut truly was the “Start of Something”.

5/5stars

 

REVIEW: The Darkness – Hot Cakes (deluxe edition)

I wanna dedicate this review to Patrick from Dave Nation, a regular reader and Darkness fan!

THE DARKNESS – Hot Cakes (Deluxe edition with 4 bonus tracks, 2012 Canary Dwarf Ltd.)

The Darkness are probably the band that came out in the last decade that I truly love most.  Something about this band just makes me feel GOOD.  They always have.  I love this band, much to the consternation of some of the people I used to work for at the record store!  I love this band, so I worked their music into our wedding reception, and played a shitload of air guitar to it!  I just love this band.

I loved the Stone Gods too.  But this is the original Darkness:  Dan, Justin, Ed and Frankie.

At first I was kind of “blah” to the idea of an original lineup reunion.  I liked Richie Edwards just fine too.  But Frankie co-writes a number of these tracks, and he has a great stage presence.  As for Ed, his trademark drum fills might not be Neil Peart material but he has his own identifiable sound, and his fills are always dead-on perfect for what the songs need.  Play air drums to The Darkness some time, you’ll see what I mean!

To get to the point, though:  Hot Cakes?  It’s magically delicious!

If you didn’t like their second album, the arguably over-elaborate One Way Ticket, then you’ll be happy with Hot Cakes.  They’ve brought things back to the basics of guitars, bass, and drums with only the odd embellishment along the way.

But the lyrics are certainly not toned down!

Every man, woman and chile wants to…

SUCK MY COCK!!!!!

Justin’s lost nothing.  He’s still bonkshit!* Except maybe just a hint (just a hint!) of his high voice.  Or maybe it’s just the production that make it seem that way.  It might even be my imagination.  So who cares?  And to sing and play lead guitar and run around like Steven Tyler?  That can’t be easy either!

The majority of songs here are great, and would make my road tape.  Much like the first and second albums, there are songs that I keep coming back to over and over again.  You become attached to certain hooks in them and then suddenly, BAM!  The song is stuck in your head!  Examples of this:

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” – Great fast catchy Darkness single, with one of their classic sounding choruses.

“With A Woman” – Simple, basic AC/DC rocker but with Justin’s flare and yet another catchy chorus.

“Everybody Have A Good Time” – “Come on people, tell me how you feel. You want a good time? Well you got yourself a deal!”  Along the blueprints of the feel-good tunes from the first album.

“She Just A Girl, Eddie” – Tied for best song on the album.  This is the one I can play 10 times in a row and still hit repeat (usually in the car).  As for the lyrics?  “There are four billion other girls, who want to make love to you.”  Eddie can’t argue with that math.  And speaking of Eddie, Ed’s drum fills are what I was talking about earlier — simple, powerful, perfect.

“Concrete” – Solid, riff-based song with great high Justin vocal.  Catchy as hell.

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – Holy.  Shit.

On the negatives:  The album somewhat follows the blueprint of the first one.  For example a ballad, “Living Each Day Blind” falls on track #5, the same place that the similar sounding “Love Is Only A Feeling” was on Permission To Land.  At times it gets predictable, but thankfully the song quality back it up.

I paid a fair chunk of money to have the deluxe edition shipped here from Amazon.co.uk.  I’m glad to say it:  These four extra songs are worth it!

There are two acoustic demos:  The campfire-like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Love”, a song as good as any on the album proper.  Then there’s a demo version of the album song “Love Is Not the Answer”, which is better than the album version.  The album version seemed very much the answer to “Holding My Own” from album #1.  The acoustic version loses that soundalike aspect, and exposes bare Justin’s vocal prowess.

Then there’s “Pat Pong Ladies”.  No idea what this one is about since it’s not included in the lyric sheet.  This one has a more layered and operatic vibe, more akin to album #2.  Having said that, it’s a great tune, better than some of the album tracks.  It gets positively Queen at times.

Lastly, “Cannonball (Long Version)”.   As my fellow rock enthusiast, Heavy Metal Overload asked, “Where’s the short version?”  Maybe Ian Anderson knows.  He plays that flute part.  Of course!  But this isn’t a ballad, or even a Tull-like rocker.  No, this is The Darkness sounding like themselves (circa album #2 with some boogie piano underneath and layered screams)!

I’m so glad this band is back.  I hope to catch them live.  I hope Lady Gaga’s audience is into them…now there’s an odd pairing!

4.5/5 stars

 

* word coined by Statham

More New Arrivals!

You may have already watched me open my brand new Sloan – Twice Removed deluxe box set.  In that video, I mentioned a had a few parcels come in.  Here’s two more that I am currently enjoying!  Watch for LeBrain’s Reviews in the coming days and weeks on mikeladano.com.

 

THE DARKNESS – Hot Cakes (finally, the elusive version with the 4 bonus tracks!)

Hot Leg and the Stone Gods are no more.  The original lineup is back, without missing a single beat!  It’s 2003 all over again!

MARILLION – Sounds That Can’t Be Made (deluxe CD / DVD combo set)

It’s far too early for me to say anything about the music or the direction this time out.  Early impressions:  Epic like Marbles, catchier than Happiness Is The Road, with a nod and a wink to Radiat10n, but certainly nothing drastically different.  The opening track “Gaza” is 17 minutes!

I love the cover art:  the Arecibo message! I have been obsessed with the Arecibo message since first reading about it in a long-forgotten science fiction story when I was a kid. Wish I could remember the story. Regardless, the message is cool in its deceptive simplicity, and I love that Marillion used it for their cover.  Printed faintly in behind is the binary version of the message.

Part 80: The Darkness

Back in 2003, I was working with this…fucking idiot.  We’ll call him Dandy.  Easily the most superficial person I’ve ever had the displeasure of associating with.  We’ll be talking more about him later on, believe me.

When Dandy told me there was this new band that would be right up my alley called The Darkness, I wanted nothing to do with it.  Not only did I hate pretty much everything he raved about, but he meant it sort of as a joke.  Like, “Watch me get Mike into a shitty band like The Darkness.”

Anyway, the way he decribed them to me sounded spoofy, and I hate 96.5% of spoofy music.  I take my hair rock seriously.

A few months later, we opened another franchise in St. Catharines (a shitty hour and a half long drive in the mornings), and I was assigned training duty for their new manager.  We worked side by side daily for a couple weeks and I found him to be a good guy.  When he put The Darkness on, I was skeptical, but by no means opposed, because he obviously wasn’t a shitface like Dandy.  He wasn’t trying to yank my chain.

Yet, I’d never heard this band before…who the hell were they?  Some new band from England that looked like a cross between Queen and Aerosmith.  And sounded something like a cross between Queen, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses.  Yet was nothing at all like anything that was coming out at the time.  And they could play.

I like bands with unique singers, and Justin Hawkins is definitely unique.  I was into it!  Dandy was wrong — this wasn’t a spoof.  These guys were serious.

We played that album any time we could get away with it — which wasn’t often since Permission To Land is loaded with “fucks”. I grew to love every song.  Great songs like “Growing On Me” and “Friday Night” kept me going on the really bad days, like a shot of Liquid Schwartz in the ol’ engine.    They quickly became my Favourite New Band, and pretty much have remained that for the last ten years!

When the second album came out, I remember one of the head office people made a point of telling me how much she hated it.

“The new Darkness…sucks.”

“Oh yeah?”  I responded, not really surprised I’d hear that from this person.  They loved to rain on my musical parades.  They thought they were doing me a favour, trying to get me out of “cheesey” music, and onto “good” music.

“There’s this one song where all he does is sing, ‘I love what you’ve done with your hair,’ over and over again,” they complained.  (Note:  The song is called “Knockers”, of course.)

Predictably, I loved the second album, although it took a few listens to absorb.  Today I find myself leaning more towards the second Darkness album.  I think their ambition got the better of them in a lot of ways though.  I think One Way Ticket was more appropriate as a fourth album, but as a second, a little shocking for the masses to absorb.  And so, in my store at least, they ignored it in droves!

I followed them through the breakup, Hot Leg and Stone Gods, and now cannot wait to hear the long awaited third record, Hot Cakes, on August 21.  Welcome back, The Darkness!