We gave Justin Hawkins and co £50 and took them record shopping in London. What did they look for? What did they buy? Did they all fit into one photo booth?? Find out here.
he world is in a cataclysmic state. The Middle East is a powder keg ready to explode. The lunatics have taken over the asylum in Washington, Moscow and Pyongyang. The global thermostat is busted, the ice caps are melting, and we’d all best start inflating our rubber water wings and learn how to paddle.
The Darkness are furious at this state of affairs. So furious, in fact, that they’ve channelled their rage into a track on their new album Pinewood Smile. The song in question focuses its anger on the crumbling transport infrastructure of this oncegreat nation. Its title? Southern Trains.
“Me and Dan were up in London for some of the writing process and it was the most dreadful experience,” says the band’s frontman Justin Hawkins. “There was so much arse-clownery involved. We managed to get seats, then the carriage filled up until it was packed. Dan was trying to eat his burrito with some commuter’s bum literally in his face. And the place just stank.”
Such hot-button concerns are reflected in the song’s verité lyrics: ‘It’s a journey into pure despair… I can smell piss and shit in the air.’ So is it a metaphor for geo-political turmoil?
“No,” says Hawkins. “It’s just about how shit Southern Trains are.”
No matter what’s going on outside your window, the world is a better place with The Darkness in it. Pinewood Smile is the quartet’s third album since their 2011 reunion and, like their best records, it fizzes with an alchemical mix of largetesticled chutzpah, arch self-deprecation and blockbusting tunes.
“The last album [2015’s The Last Of Our Kind] had a backs-to-the-wall vibe,” says bassist Frankie Poullain, a man unafraid to rock a triple denim jacket/trousers/waistcoat ensemble in private or public. “There were problems with Ed [former drummer Ed Graham]. That was tough and traumatic for everyone.”
“This one is fronts-to-the-wall,” beams Justin, himself sporting a natty checked suit. “Before, we were just cowering in corners of the showers, now we’re top dogs. We’re offering our arses to people.”
With that vivid image seared in everyone’s brains, it’s time for The Darkness to hit record store-cumhipsters’ hangout Rough Trade East in the heart of London’s trendy Shoreditch district for Classic Rock’s Record Shop Challenge. There’s the promise of £50 of guilt-free spending money to get them through the door, although the prospect of flicking through some racks of proper oldschool is lure enough.
“I want to find either of the two first Dread Zeppelin albums,” Justin jokes, referring to the longforgotten 90s comedy rock band whose shtick involved reggae-style Led Zeppelin covers sung by an overweight Elvis impersonator. “I sold my original copies back home. The shop shut down and the building’s been empty for years, but I think those records are still in the window.”
Instantly, they split up. Dan Hawkins, rock-solid guitarist and Justin’s younger brother, gravitates to a wall of vinyl featuring a tediously predictable array of ‘Albums You Must Listen To Or Your Dog Will Die’-type LPs featuring the usual suspects: the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Marvin Gaye’s soul classic What’s Goin’ On, The Beatles’ Revolver. Ignoring these, he picks up a copy of The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend by cult soul man Baby Huey, released posthumously in 1971.
“What the fuck is this?” he says, indicating the portrait of the heroically Afro’d, 350lb singer on the cover. “And what the fuck is he wearing on the back? Is that a mu-mu? That’s fucking amazing.
I’ve bought loads of records just because of the cover. In fact we sometimes buy stuff just to look at the outfits.”
Growing up, Dan and Justin bought their records from Andy’s Records and Our Price in their home town Lowestoft. “The bargain bin was a good place to find new music,”says Dan. “You know you’ve made it when you see one of your own albums in there next to The Best Of Michael Jackson.”
Dan has his sights on something by 60s croonerturned-avant garde eardrum-botherer Scott Walker. “When I moved to London, I worked as a receptionist in a reprographics company, and one of the guys in charge used to play Scott Walker and Patti Smith all day. It just reminds me of moving to London.” He spots a Walker compilation CD. “This looks good. And only
A few aisles along, Frankie is flicking through the ‘Soundtracks’ section. “I like this stuff,” he says. “Initially it was all the Sergio Leone stuff when I was younger, but I’m starting to get into Phillip Glass. I like his violin concerto. It’s a powerful piece of music.”
Frankie’s fondness for the orchestral isn’t surprising. His father was a classical violinist who won a scholarship at the Guildhall School Of Music, played in the BBC Symphony Orchestra and helped found respected Scottish chamber music collective the Edinburgh
“I want to find
either of the two first Dread
Zeppelin albums. I sold my original
“Here’s one you might not have heard of.”