Last of Our Kind
That Time We Sang on a Billboard 200 Album
Album: Last of Our Kind
Artist: The Darkness
Released: May 2015
Disclaimer For The Masses
The Darkness is one of the bands that served as a catalyst to the creation of Lead Generation. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great bands out there, but these guys hold a special place in my heart. I had a discussion with the LG crew about which album we should feature, and we came to the conclusion that Last of Our Kind (LoOK for short) was going to be the one. The main reason why we chose it: we actually sing on it! In this article, I’m going to let you know how we achieved such a feat, but there’s so much more to talk about. When I placed all the events on a timeline, I realized that everything that led to us singing on the album is what made me such a fervent fan of the band and of rock music in general. In other words, there’s a prequel to the LoOK saga, so don’t be surprised when we’ll do another feature on the band. To me, they are the saviours of rock and roll. If you disagree with that statement, then your definition of rock doesn’t include ridiculously high-pitched singing, flamboyant stage presences, songs about sexy bears or about what our world needs more of right now (love, that is) and revealing catsuits. The Darkness is what makes rock so beloved by some and hated by others. We have permission to land!
Becoming A Darkling
Oddly enough, I first heard about The Darkness during a televised end-of-year review show on a Canadian network. The host asked this guy wearing a moustache which artist made its mark during 2003, and he said something like “Definitely The Darkness.” Then they played the video for “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” As soon as I saw Justin Hawkins come out of the water, I knew this band was for me. I was really getting into classic rock bands like AC/DC, Queen, KISS and Deep Purple at the time, but I didn’t know any contemporary bands who conveyed that same rock vibe and energy. I was sure none of my peers knew about The Darkness, but a few weeks later, I hear one of my schoolmates (God bless his soul) play the “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” riff at band practice. I go: “Is that the song with the clip of the naked guy?” It surely was! Shortly thereafter, I started requesting the song on Montreal’s rock radio station. They used to play it quite a lot. As I was getting more and more into rock music, I started hanging out with the kids who liked this kind of music. I remember fondly the times when I would walk home from band practice with my friend. We would have these heated discussions about how The Darkness and Jet were saving rock and bringing back guitar solos. I also remember discussing how Peter Criss was not the worst out of the four KISS solo albums. Sadly, I now think it is, but Gene Simmons is pretty awful too! Back then, being only 13 or 14 years old, I wasn’t able to afford buying a lot of CDs. My parents would get me one or two albums a month. At $21 a CD, I was limited to only buying albums by big name bands like Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and AC/DC. My parents would go: “Who’s The Darkness anyway? We’re not buying that.” Funny thing is: they love the band now. My mom actually thinks Justin Hawkins has the best voice in music right now. And she’s absolutely right!
Growing On Me
On June 22, 2004, the band played in Montreal at the Auditorium de Verdun. Obviously, I wasn’t there as I was a little too young to attend such an intense event. But oh boy, how I would’ve wanted to be at that show. Interestingly enough, it was one of the last concerts hosted at the venue. At that point, the band was already very popular worldwide. I started seriously going to see concerts at the beginning of 2006, so I would’ve been able to see them on their next tour, but it wasn’t to be for another 9 years. After Permission to Land came their second album, One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back, in 2005. I really enjoyed the title track and the other singles off that album, but as much as the vocals, lyrics and overall musical performance had reached the highest levels of flamboyance, the LP was rather disappointing (mostly according to so-called “critics,” whose credibility we all know isn’t worth half a stinking turd). If any hardcore fans are reading this, I would just like to mention how much fun it was playing the One Way Ticket… flash game on the band’s website around that time: running on the moving train to hell, armed with only one guitar shooting laser out of its headstock, it was so cool as a kid! Sadly though, the band split up the year after. But like a trooper, I kept on listening to their stuff, eventually getting my hands on both of their albums, and hoping they’d reunite. I followed Justin Hawkins’ 2007 Eurovision attempt at representing the UK. I honestly thought it was brilliant, pure gold. I love the Eurovision Song Contest for its quirkiness and the numerous WTF moments, and I think Justin fits in perfectly. This reminds me to tell you to check out our article about another Eurovision artist we dearly love: ABBA. Justin’s love for ABBA is quite evident as he cites Arrival among the records that changed his life. Coincidentally, many of the records he mentions here changed my life too! During their break, the members of The Darkness worked on different projects like Stone Gods and Hot Leg, both of which I’ve never really gotten into, although I did enjoy Hot Leg’s videos. Eventually, they reunited and gave a rocking performance at the 2011 Download Festival. The same lineup that had given us Permission to Land released Hot Cakes in 2012. I was so excited to see them step back into the spotlight. They were all in tip-top shape, the songs were solid and the videos were hilarious! The sexy bear videos were the key to my best friends’ hearts. To this day we still laugh when we think about those videos. To me, the most exciting part about Hot Cakes was that I finally got to see them perform in concert at Montreal’s Corona Theatre in May of 2013. My friend and I got to meet Justin Hawkins after that show. And guess what! It was even more awesome than you’d imagine! Justin was so nice to us. We will definitely do a feature story about that night sometime in the future. You can count on it!
Children! We Are The Last Of Our Kind
Towards the end of 2014, we were all aware that the band was recording a new album. Their frequent (and personalized) social media updates and interactions are truly appreciated by the Darklings. Just to give you a hint: it’s pretty cool to know what running shoes Justin likes to wear during recording. We both like the same brand! Not telling you which one though. Okay, these resemblances between the two of us are starting to get weird… Oh well. Shortly after the recordings for what would eventually become LoOK, Ed Graham was replaced by Emily Dolan Davies. Ed’s one of the funniest drummers ever. His dry wit is obvious! He looks so serious in the videos and while he’s playing, but you just know he’s having the time of his life. When I saw the guys live, he was wearing a shirt with his face and Japanese writing on it. How funny is that? Really. Who does that? All the best to you, Ed. Despite Emily’s solid performance on the album, some thought it was bizarre that a woman was playing drums for the band. I feel like asking them: you know we’re talking about The Darkness here, right? Her tenure didn’t last long. She was eventually replaced by Queen drummer Roger Taylor’s son Rufus. Again, logical choice. One of the band’s main influences is, you guessed it, Queen. There you go. And now the fun part: at the end of 2014, the fans were asked to film themselves for the new untitled music video, which eventually became the track “Last of Our Kind.” I gave away my coordinates mainly because I wanted to hear the song before everyone else. I was sent the instructions and a snippet of the new song, which I still have on my laptop. Some of the instructions read: “Marvel at [the song’s] glory and enjoy the lyric ‘Children! We are the last of our kind’”, “If you insist on being practically naked please do so tastefully and think of the Children!” and “Thanks for being part of the greatest rock band on earth.” We had to submit a video in 3 days’ time, and I wasn’t taking it seriously at all. So much so that one night, a day before due date, I jokingly mentioned to my friends that we should do a funny sketch for the band and just send it to them. It was already way past midnight when we set up to do a hand shadow puppet show in the living room, with my friend’s girlfriend asleep in the other room. So we sang the vocals, clapped and did the show in front of a MacBook camera while trying our best not to laugh out loud. My friend tells me he still has that video somewhere. Which begs the question: did his girlfriend ever get to see what we filmed that night? If she did, she must’ve thought we were high or something. Well… we were high on a thing called love for the Lowestoft lads! When we were satisfied with our take, we sent it to the band with a message like “Love and kisses from Montreal.” I remember thinking: “The guys are gonna find that funny!” My friends didn’t want to include all of our names, so we ended up just using mine. 4 months later, I find out that I’m getting a credit on the album. Sweet! When the album comes out in May 2015 (internationally, mind you), I go out and buy 4 copies. I give one to each of my fellow vocal collaborators (Thanks guys! Catch you on the flip side), keep one for wear and tear and the fourth one is still sitting sealed in my collection today. My name can be found in the liner notes, but I can’t say that I can make out ours or any other fans’ voice when I listen to the title track. And the official video for the song, as funny as it is, doesn’t include any of our home videos. But who cares! We got to sing on a Billboard 200 album. And the band — god bless ’em — actually cared enough to include our names in the liner notes. It’s mind-blowing, you have no idea… A million thank yous! Don’t you think I should add this to my résumé? I’m going to squeeze in a few words about LoOK’s artwork: the baby! The image is designed by Nick Roche, who started out with the picture of a real baby (little Danielle) sitting in her car seat wearing Darkness wraparound glasses. Needless to say that her parents are fans of the band. The dad posted the picture on a fan page himself! The result is so awesome. Nick Roche put in so many cool band references, some very well hidden: there are the 4 finger tattoos of the band members’ faces, which are references to Justin’s Queen members tattoos, each band member has a switch with their name on it, the name of Dan’s studio, “Hawks Nest,” where LoOK was recorded, is shown on a small screen, song titles “Barbarian” and “Open Fire” appear written on gadgets, and you can see the initials “TD” and “TDK-IV” written on there too, referring to the band’s name and their fourth album.
Nothing’s gonna stop us (get it?) to talk a bit about the album. Before I open fire (yes, I’m having a lot of fun with this), I’m going to say that this album has a bit of a “back-to-basics” approach gone wild. It’s got a lot of the spontaneity of Permission to Land, a bit of Hot Cake’s rawness, but it expands into new territories and goes a little crazy, a bit like One Way Ticket to Hell… only much less over-produced. All in all: less glam, but with a harder proggy edge. There’s even mandolin on there. Need I say more? The best of all worlds! While writing this, I’ve just realized that there’s an “explicit content” warning on the CD cover. I guess it portrays how offended I am by the content. I think they meant to write ENTERTAINING content. That sounds about right! But seriously, despite the band’s catchy tunes, the lyrics are often quite dark and graphic. They put the “arkness” in The Darkness! I won’t be talking much about the lyrics here because frankly, I’m not a lyrics nerd. Plus, anyone can look them up on the interwebs so what’s the point? The opening track and lead single, “Barbarian,” starts out with a monologue, a very nice touch, until the loud music kicks in! Emily kills it on the drums. The song’s about the East Anglia invasion by the sons of Ragnar (everybody knows the guy!). I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking: “whoa! that chorus wail is crazy!” It takes balls to release this as a first single. The animated video features once again some very cool artwork by Nick Roche. “Open Fire” is second on the singles’ list, and this one has The Cult as main influence. I quickly fell in love with it. I can’t believe how good Justin’s voice sounds here. The guitar solo is a monster too. The video setting is sublime. Super song! “Last of Our Kind” is up next. The “80’s hit song” off the album. We’re all singing on this one, remember? There’s a bit of nostalgia in there, but it’s pure genius. Everything’s on point. The video is so fun to watch. So many fun characters in this one, like the guy that strips half-naked. Wait, is that Eric Nally from Foxy Shazam over there? Cool beans! Fun fact: Justin produced Foxy Shazam’s The Church of Rock and Roll, a really awesome record. Back to LoOK, “Roaring Waters” and “Mudslide” are very entertaining songs, with nice riffs and a very AC/DC Who Made Who or Blow Up Your Video sound I find. I enjoy them very much. The “prog songs” are “Mighty Wings” (I’ve never heard the band do something like this, and it’s not very long, so it’s easy to get into it) and “Conquerors” (I find this one proggy simply because Frankie sings it!) “Wheels of the Machine” is a typical Darkness ballad. Another love song during which the guys pour their hearts out. It seems like nowadays every person writes a song about their feelings towards another, but they’re afraid to put a name on it. Just say that you’re actually talking about love! Grow a backbone and do it! The Darkness are not afraid to sing a beautiful love song, and I adore them for it.
After The Album
In November 2015, there was a special Christmas-theme release of LoOK, with 4 extra songs including the single “I Am Santa.” It’s not the first time the band releases a Christmas edition of an album: Permission to Land’s “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” was a hit in 2003 and still gets back in the charts from time to time. On December 18, 2016, the band hosted the first Darknesstival in London. It consisted of a fan convention and a special live show. Oh how I would’ve liked to have been there! Hopefully there will be another one soon, somewhere in North America maybe (fingers crossed!) They haven’t returned to Montreal since 2013, so I’m looking forward to any chance I can get to see them again. I’ll always remain a devoted fan. They’ve never let me down (they even reply to my tweets — thank you guys!) and have proved time and time again that they’re worthy of the “Saviours of Rock” title. And to this day, when someone tells me there are no new bands that carry the rock and roll torch, I tell them to shove it and go listen to The Darkness. LG
Get Your Fix
The Darkness Official Website — for all official news and merchandise.
The Darkness Messengers Community — interact with Darkness fans from around the world and earn points that can be used to redeem cool gifts and rewards.
Justin Hawkins: The 10 Records That Changed My Life — some great albums.
Local Current Blog — read about the baby featured on the album artwork.
Nick Roche’s Blog — the story behind the artwork.