The Darkness, ‘Last of Our Kind’ – Exclusive Track-By-Track Breakdown
The Darkness have just released their fourth studio album, Last of Our Kind. While fans have already experienced the singles "Barbarian" and "Open Fire" which both dominated our Battle Royale weekly video countdown, the full album was unleashed this week.
To go along with the release of Last of Our Kind, we invited Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins and guitarist Dan Hawkins to our headquarters so the duo could give us an exclusive track-by-track breakdown.
As you may expect, the brothers came from a variety of places when it comes to musical inspiration. But even better, sometimes the stories after the songs' completion describe a track better than any sort of sonic dissection.
Check out our exclusive track-by-track breakdown of the Darkness' Last of Our Kind below!
DH: My wife was listening to "Barbarian" in the car for the first time, believe it or not, today.
JH: Did she poop her knickers?
DH: She almost crashed her car. Basically, the guy in the beginning is my gardener, Trevor, and he's got a really thick Norfolk accent and she like, "Oh, that's Trevor, that sounds funny." Then the full force of the track came in and she actually curbed the car. It cost me about 300 f---ing quid because she scraped the rim and knocked the tracking out.
JH: The video for it is part us playing on a beach with a howling gale in Ireland with waves crashing behind us and part fire performance stuff.
DH: It's become a quite fiery video, hasn't it?
JH: There's just more and more fire being added to it, every time we see an edit, there's more fire, which is good. It's like the "Love Is Only a Feeling" video. It's all about the location and the beauty of that. It is a bit like that in places, but it's offset by some sexually uncomfortable fire play stuff. I hope I'm not making it sound like a Rammstein video; it's more of a boylesque thing. Old fashioned fire breathing and stuff like that, circus-esque. Simon Emmett is doing the video and he's an amazing photographer.
DH: The Cult is one of our biggest influences, Justin and I in particular, both massive fans of certain periods of the Cult. [Looks to Justin] Actually, you listen to all of it.
JH: I love all of it, yeah.
DH: I'm more into Electric.
JH: I'm so into the Cult, I really like the more obscure things, the bootlegs and stuff that we used to get. The Electric album; one of the things that I used to listen to a lot was the Manor Sessions, which is before Rick Rubin told him to put all of his effects pedals to one side and only play a Les Paul through a Marshall. They recorded all their songs in more of the style of the Love album, so it's more of a goth rock thing and I love all of it from beginning to end; the cock-rock period and all of that. I'm glad, because finally some of that is coming through into what we're doing.
Some of the things we do sound very AC/DC I suppose, but it's just very nice to do a very recognizably Cult thing.
DH: Classic riffs all the way through.
"Last of Our Kind"
DH: I guess that's probably not one of the most '80s song on the record; possibly one of the most '80s songs ever made. [Laughs]
JH: The lyric of it is inspired by that film Hawk the Slayer. It's kind of a swords and sorcery thing. Anyway, Hawk the Slayer, there's this bit where it's a little bit like The Hobbit, he's got a few friends around him; one is a giant, one is an elf, one of them is a dwarf with a hearty appetite and he's really handy with a whip and there's a guy who has lost half his hand and is a great crossbow enthusiast.
It's just about going to battle with the baddie and the elf is lamenting the fact that when they go into this battle, if he is killed, that's the end of his entire civilization. These baddies have wiped out his whole family and it's just him, he's the last of his kind. So, it's kind of inspired by that.
When you finish an album and you're sort of getting ready to show it to the press, it does feel like you're about to pop your head up and charge into battle. I was trying to make it into a song that's about being an elf that's going into battle and releasing an album.
DH: It's got a great guitar solo on it. I haven't heard a solo like that on a record in a long time.
JH: Since the Top Gun soundtrack! [Laughs] There's a couple Kenny Loggins guitar solos on the album.
JH: That one is about the Sack of Baltimore. The Sack of Baltimore is basically when ships come in and they lay a city to siege and you hear it a lot in Game of Thrones. They just wait and fight and take everything. It happened in Ireland in the Dark Ages, I guess. It's really interesting because it's just like the Viking invasion, but it happened around the other side of the British Isles and they took 130 people, mostly women, and took them back to be sexed. It was mostly sex trafficking, Medieval sex trafficking; that's what that song's about and it's obviously got a gigantic riff on it, which is really fun to play live and it's probably my favorite song on the album.
DH: Was it the heaviest? The middle eight is awesome, I love that. The middle eight of that song is the edgiest I think we've ever been. It's got like a Led Zeppelin meets Soundgarden kind of feel to the choruses, in a weird way, I think, but I'm just listening to the guitars, as usual, as f---ing usual.
"Wheels of the Machine"
DH: It's the last track on Side A and it's the ballad on the record.
JH: One of two ballads, really. We try to put a ballad on every side. Four or five songs should be a side, really.
DH: It's quite weird song, "Wheels of the Machine." I personally feel like we forgot to write a chorus for it, but we went ahead and did it anyway. Not every song has to try and sound like a single; it's got an emotional pull and it pulls you in.
JH: It's one of the songs that polarizes people, even people that we've played it to; maybe we're married to or working with closely. Some of them love it and some of them don't get it at all. For the ones that love it, really love it. It's doing what a Darkness song should do, which is dividing people in a really gentle way. It's gently ushering people who like it to one side and people who dislike it to the other.
JH: "Down goes the sun / The end has begun / The Season of Eros and my work is done." The Season of Eros is a short story that we had to read at school and I remember it being super graphic, sexy; almost like an erotic novella. It was a story about a guy who became totally infatuated with a beautiful woman who was young and pure and literally virginal and wouldn't surrender her virtue to anybody until marriage. They get married, they have loads and loads of sex, which is all described to the most minute detail, and then the sex wears off and he's stuck with this woman and they have nothing in common really, it's quite sad.
DH: Is this the story of life, my friend? It's not just marriage though, it's every relationship you have until you find "the one," isn't it? Sometimes you don't fine the one and that's it, you're f---ed.
JH: Sometimes you find two "ones" at the same time.
DH: Some people find…
JH: "Mudslide" is a piece of music we had and we felt like it should be called "Mudslide," so we had to sort of… the thing about mudslide is, as an expression, hilarious because it could be like an anal sex euphemism and we didn't want it to be that, we wanted it to actually be about natural disaster.
We had to try to think about the context of writing about a natural disaster, it's not something we've ever been privy to, so we wanted to make it into sort of an ecological thing. The idea of it is that the Earth's tectonic plates shift and create these kinds of disasters. There's a slight implication in a lot of movies and a lot of internet stuff that Mother Nature is angry with us because of the way we treat the world, so the character in "Mudslide" is somebody who is totally obsessed with his possessions and cares more for material things and holds more value in that stuff than the people around him and consequently the environment around him. It's Mother Nature against the really debonaire character who is belligerently getting on with his life.
There is a subtlety in the dramatic monologues because it starts off with a sort of Deep South accent that morphs into a North Yorkshire accent, so tectonic plates have completely split and he he's still just worried about his gazebo and his smoking jacket.
JH: She's a distillation of several women; one of them is my wife, whose name is Sarah, but she's not Irish and her surname is not O'Sarah. It's semi-autobiographical, but it's more of a song about mystical women.
DH: Using the most used woman's name, probably?
JH: It's very common, it's good to sing.
DH: It was going to be Barbara, wasn't it?
JH: Bertha, lovely Bertha. Make my heart burn.
"Hammer and Tongs"
DH: Have you heard the expression called "going at it hammer and tongs"? Hammer and tongs are two of the most popular tools that you would use in blacksmithery; making swords and that. In England, if you're having a really heated argument, you're going at it hammer and tongs. If you're engaged in coitus and involved in coitus, you're going at it hammer and tongs. That's the one that we're talking about. It's about having sex with someone all night. I wouldn't know what that's like, I'm a virgin. [Laughs] From what I've read. [Laughs]
DH: It's more like Hammer.
JH: Stop, Hammer time! Nobody knows what that song is about, I don't even think Frank [Poullain, bass] knows, to be honest.
DH: When he first sang it, it was just a bunch of noises. We decided to write a ballad, stick some delay on the guitar sound, Justin comes in with the drum and we're off. Franky did obviously abandon the bass at the moment, we always have a microphone ready to go when we're writing in the middle of the room, so he just grabbed that and started singing along and we got as far as the first pre-chorus and he basically made the structure of it; it was just weird, it was garbled.
JH: We had to decipher what he was trying to say because it was obvious that something was within him, he just was feeling it and we had to sort of dig out what we thought it meant.
DH: I think from now on when anyone sings they're going to make sure when they go to the microphone they've got a mouth full of cotton balls and we'll kind of decipher and make up what we think it should be.
"Million Dollar Strong"
JH: An interesting part about that is that there's a trumpet part on it which is played by Frankie's brother, Tim, who also cooked for us while we were writing.
DH: He cooked a lot of lentils on that trip, so in some ways, we provided him with a lot of wind and he re-paid us with a different form of wind. It's not about farts. What's it about, Jus?
JH: It's one of those relationship songs. It's a struggle, "I'm really miserable" and the pre-chorus is the same as a lot of other songs that we do.
DH: It's a fun track though; a bag chord changes.
JH: Loads of chord changes in it, a great guitar solo...
DH: Guitar solos, a trumpet solo... it's basically just a solo-fest.
Thanks to Justin and Dan for the album breakdown! To grab your own copy of the Darkness' 'Last of Our Kind,' click here.