I feel like I’ve really dropped the ball lately concerning all the new albums that have come out over the last month/month and a half. I wish I could say I’ve fallen behind because I live such a fast-paced, exciting existence. The truth is: I’m a fat, lazy, music blogger. To be fair, there has been an unusual glut of awesome, noteworthy album releases these last few weeks, but is that an excuse? My backlog started innocently enough: one awesome release (the new Darkness album) came out last month and before I knew it another had come out…then this week Bob Dylan and ZZ Top both put out new albums.
So in order for me to clear my dockett of album reviews, I’m going to knock ’em all out at once! Presenting the Great New Album Round-Up!
HOT CAKES by The Darkness: For many people, The Darkness are a bit of a joke band. And while they most certainly do not take themselves seriously (at all), The Darkness are a seriously awesome rock band. The music and lyrics are always 100% solid. After the band’s second album the band broke up…well sorta. Lead singer Justin Hawkins left the band and formed a new band, Hot Leg. The rest of The Darkness tried to soldier on without Justin, but it didn’t work-out. When I heard the band had gotten back together and recorded a new record (and that Justin had cleaned up his act) I got both excited and worried. Excited because a new Darkness album would be fantastic, but worried because so much time had passed since the last album. Would the band be able to deliver the grand-rock hooks and cheeky shenanigans?
Turns out The Darkness still got it! HOT CAKES is a fantastic and FUN rock record. Remember having fun? It seems like everyone wants to be so serious lately, which is fine…I guess…but sometimes all I want to do is rock. And smile. The Darkness have delivered an awesomely upbeat album for these gloomy days of late 2012. The album opens with “Every Inch of You.” The song is about Justin’s desire to give his audience…everything. Despite the (semi-gross) goofy-entendre, I really feel like Justin & Company are sincere in wanting to give us fans as much bang for our buck as possible.
The song begins with Justin singing:
“Baby I was a loser
Several years on the dole
An English man with a very high voice
Doing rock and roll
There are seas of sleeveless T-shirts
And cues around the block
And every man wanting so
Wants to do
Suck my cock”
That pretty much sets the tone for the record: cartoonishly over-the-top and loaded with falsetto. No Darkness album would be complete without a few obligatory Queen-references, and HOT CAKES as a few very Queen-like songs. The super-catchy, sing-a-long “Keep Me Hangin’ On” and the quieter ballad of hope “Living Each Day Blind” both recall Freddie Mercury’s famous band. More blatantly, however is “Forbidden Love” which, unlike the other two songs, actually sounds exactly like something Queen recorded. I think you could actually play “Forbidden Love” to a causal rock fan and they might not realize it isn’t Queen.
So is this a rip-off, homage, or tribute? I guess that’s for you to decide. Me, I see them as a little of all three. Does it bother me that The Darkness owe so much to Queen? No. The Darkness aren’t pretending they’ve invented the wheel with these songs, they know their place in the history of music. That respect makes it ok (unlike say, Brandon Flowers from The Killers who refuses to accept that his band has become a Springstein-lite band since their second record…and insists that each new Killers record is the second coming).
Worth mentioning is the awesome Radiohead cover at the end of the album. The Darkness have really outdid themselves with this one. The band has taken the somber “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” off of THE BENDS and reworked it into a hard-charing rocker. I strongly urge you to check out Radiohead’s version if you aren’t super-familiar with it and then give the Darkness cover a listen. It’s hilariously awesome and the epitome of everything I love about this funny, brash, rocking band.
Basically, if you were a fan of the last two Darkness records you will love HOT CAKES. Unfortunately, I feel this record isn’t going to win them very many new fans. Sure, the songs are just as good as they were before–but I feel like a band like The Darkness has a very limited amount of appeal. I don’t agree with the people who dismiss them, but I can see where they are coming from. HOT CAKES is a great release from an awesome band. If you dug them before get HOT CAKES.