It’s been nearly twenty years since I first heard a demo EP for The Darkness and booked them to play at a club night I was then running in Oxford. They played to a little over a hundred people and, as they have continued to do, completely split the room in terms of audience reaction. The band tore up the stage, looking very much like they belonged in front of an arena crowd, which, ironically, some nine months later they would go on to do alongside the likes of Moby, Ash and Robbie Williams at Knebworth.

Fast forward to the present and the new album, Motorheart. Kicking off with the truly bizarre, phonetically spelled Welcome Tae Glasgae, which proves to be quite the opener. Alternating between driving rhythms with bagpipes alongside namechecking gig venues and staccato riffing with shouty exclamations, this feels more than a little unsure of itself and its place in the world. Given provenance from Chertsey and Lowestoft it seems weird to be proclaiming ‘Pride of Scotland, take me back.’ Apparently meant as a love letter to the city, the statement: ‘The women are gorgeous and the food is okay’ falls a little short on praise for me.

It’s Love, Jim, Star Trek parody aside is more familiar fare, with chunky riffs, catchy hooks and elongated falsetto spinning a tale of the wiles of a (potentially alien) woman with eyes of onyx. On to the title track of the album, Motorheart, offering easily the most assured track of the album so far. There’s a lot to unpack here as the track effortlessly switches keys, tempos and styles at breakneck pace, running the gamut from Egyptian sounding licks, operatic choral ensembles, staccato bridges, power ballad breaks and an uplifting major key chorus. This is where The Darkness are at their best, playing with different styles and sounds in a song about a sex robot. Gloriously silly.

The Power and the Glory of Love packs in AC/DC inspired riffs and some cheeky almost Status Quo-esque hooks. It’s a solid driving tune with an airy vocal bridge, morphing into a classic guitar solo. Jussy’s Girl is a fun play on the idea of Rick Springfield’s classic with some truly hilarious lyrics alongside some wonderful hair metal riffs and, bizarrely, a repeating helicopter sound effect. Lyrical gems in this one include: “I wouldn’t change anything about you except maybe your surname”; “I would wait on you, hand and foot, you make me feel sehr gut” and the entire outro, which I won’t spoil for you, but almost made me spit out my tea.

Sticky Situations is a mostly laid back tune with strings, acoustic guitars and the occasional swelling crescendo. Nobody Can See Me Cry takes the tempo back up again delivering a solid headbanging number with surefire audience participation, this will definitely have them singing along “I don’t think you realise your power”.

Eastbound seems to tell the story of a fishing trip that turns into a pub crawl. Musically straddling a fine line between AC/DC and Blur’s Parklife. It’s a catchy number with some very silly breaks that somehow all works together to make for a memorable tune. Album closer, Speed of the Nite Time, has a more of an 80s Neuromantic feel to it with riffs reminiscent of The Cure and some very nice synth parts. Mix this with choral harmonies, an epic bridge and some of Justin Hawkin’s best falsetto, and you end up with easily one of the best tracks on the album.

Overall a mixed bag for me, there’s definitely some greatness in there, interspersed with a few oddities. It suffers a little overall from the lack of a true power ballad the likes of which were featured on previous albums. But, definitely one for the shelf for fans. It’s fair to say that, undoubtedly, The Darkness will continue to divide opinions for years to come.

Originally printed in