The Darkness Bridge Parody and Sincerity on Latest Album ‘Pinewood Smile’

Parody or sincerity? That is the question fans of British rock outfit The Darkness have long asked themselves. Lead singer Justin Hawkins and his band mates, however, seem to be perfectly happy with the line they’ve drawn. Their humorous, often salacious lyrics somehow mesh perfectly with their homebrewed classic rock sound. After seeing initial success with their debut “Permission to Land,” a break-up years later, followed by side projects and a reunion, The Darkness are back with “Pinewood Smile,” an album which somehow finds them as cohesive as ever.   

Kicking off the album with the upbeat single “All the Pretty Girls” was perfect. Hawkins’ scream leads to one of the catchiest choruses on the album which describes the increased attention Hawkins understandably saw after his band hit it big with their debut single “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” from 2004. In true Darkness fashion, Hawkins not only shouts out to all the pretty girls, but gives due to their “mums” too. This type of bravado isn’t lost on other tracks as well. “Solid Gold” describes how they are “…never gonna stop/shitting out solid gold.” Other lyrical gems like “Hell bent for denim and leather” and “This fist ain’t gonna bump itself” can be found throughout. The laughs continues on “Southern Trains” where Hawkins indicts the railway which he rode to and from the studio so often during the recording of this album. He equates the transit provider to Hades calling it a “journey into pure despair” while the Snapchat filmed music video overlaps images of the train with bellows of pure fire. While The Darkness may not be making friends with the railway, they certainly have gained new fans with this song which has since went viral online, and in print. During an interview with Entertainment Voice recently, Hawkins described an article in Metro, a London paper distributed on the city’s Underground rail, which detailed their song. To no surprise, readers around the city Tweeted to the band in solidarity.

Drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, joined the band for this album, adding to the rock legacy Hawkins aims to leave behind. After having sang and played drums with his father’s band, Hawkins was confident he’d fit right in. “Buccaneers of Hispaniola,” shines a comedic light on the seafaring pirates of yesteryear backed by Taylor’s expertly rolling snares and pounding bass kicks. Superb harmonization can be found on the slow-down track “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry” and the uncharacteristic final cut “Stampede of Love.” Speaking of, according to Hawkins, there’s plenty of uncharacteristic nuggets to be found. “Things like…”Lay Down With Me, Barbara,” I don’t think we’ve done anything like that before,” he explains, “I feel like it’s us trying to something that’s a bit, sort of, colorful.”

“Pinewood Smile” is as refreshing an album that you could ask for from a band like The Darkness whose sound can be very predictable, especially based on their singles. Once you the deep cuts start making themselves known, however, there’s plenty of freshness to latch onto. “Happinesss” and “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry?” are prime examples of their musical growth and maturity. This once again goes to show their expert teetering between parody and sincerity.

Pinewood Smile” is available Oct. 6 on Apple Music.