stone gods

REVIEW: The Stone Gods – Silver Spoons & Broken Bones (2008)

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

…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 into two camps 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.

What makes this band special is twofold. First, there is the undeniable writing talents of Dan and the band, proving that Justin was not the be-all and end-all of the Darkness. Two is 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?

The band themselves stuck solidly to a heavy metal direction. Ed Graham plays his trademark caveman drum fills and it fits like a glove. Dan’s guitar howls and shrieks like a thing possessed. Above it all, Richie wails. These are heavy metal songs. You won’t mistake that right from the opening metal riffage of “Burn The Witch”. And you can’t mistake these lyrics for anything but pure rock.

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, very few 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, some more 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, well rounded rock album with light and shade.

It’s great that The Darkness are back together, and I rated Hot Cakes very highly.  I do miss these guys though.  A second album would have been something.

4.5/5stars

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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!