Friday, May 27, 2005

Darkness Falls

Press Release posted on The Darkness web site:



With immediate effect, bass player, Frankie Poullain, is no longer a member of The Darkness.

Remaining members have cited musical differences as the reason for his departure. A replacement will be announced within coming months.

I know, there are literally only 3 of you who give a flying fuck about this... but Umlaut and The Darkness collided big time in 2003-2004.

I "discovered" The Darkness during a "transitional" period in my life. I had just gotten laid off from a job that I loved. Life was suddenly chaotic and uncertain. Plus, I was turning 40. I was ripe for Lock 'N Loll to remind me how fun life could be again.

I read about the band being voted "Best Live Band" over the likes of Metallica by the readers of Kerrang! magazine. I was intrigued. Their debut album wasn't out in the States yet so I illegally downloaded it. At first I was like "What the hell??"... Then I bought into them. Lock stock and two smoking Les Pauls.


How much did I buy into them? I saw 'em 4x on their debut U.S. Tour... including 2 road trips totaling 6,000+ miles of travel. The Darkness had me (and Skychick) at "whence".

Road Trip Trophy (From the Umlaut Archives)

It was really fucking fun while it lasted.. The most fun I've had following a band in a long time. Most folks wrote them off as a joke band, but they were good musicians who wrote good, catchy songs with a sense of humor.. An ENGLISH sense of humor. They penned THE quintessential song about head lice ("Growing On Me"). As far as I know, they're also the only band to use the words "motherfucker", "sweater", "gymnastics", "skag", "badminton", and "whence" on the same album. They had me at "whence".

The Darkness helped me pull out of a bad mental space and inspired me to remember how much I love music. How fun and life affirming it can be. Plus, onstage they had a sense of showmanship I honestly haven't seen since Van Halen 1980.

My favorite Darkness moment came after reading an interview in the S.F. Chronicle with Justin prior to their debut S.F. show. In the interview he said:

"I was thinking about writing a song about Alcatraz from the point of view of a tourist," he says. "You know that audio tour where you do 30 seconds of solitary in a dark room? ... I was thinking of writing a song about that called 'You Should Get Out More.' "

The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways: As fate would have it, Umlaut works for the company that produced the Alcatraz audio tour. The Geek in me sent the band's management an e-mail mentioning this and how I was a big Darkness fan. The Geeks shall inherit the Earth.

A couple of days later at their sold out show at Slim's, Justin commented how they'd never been to S.F. before as a band, but he'd been here before. He elaborated by saying "I went to Alcatraz.. Did the fucking audio tour.."

If I had been drinking at that moment I would have done a spit take. Several weeks after the show, the Geek in me sent the band's management a bootleg CD of the Slim's show along with an article about The Birdman of Alcatraz. For the artwork I titled the CD Welcome To The Rock. Of course, I didn't use my real name.. I signed my note "Sincerely, Robert Stroud". The Geeks shall inherit the Earth.

Another Darkness memory: At the 2nd show in L.A. (4/18/04) Justin began his nightly trip out into the crowd atop a roadie's shoulders. The show was during the massive hype surrounding the band and you could tell they were having a blast onstage. The crowd was going bonkers. As Justin reached the point of no return in the crowd, he began having sound problems with his Les Paul. I glanced back at the stage and Frankie was taking a sip from a cup and he raised it in salute to his bandmate in peril. Call me a Geek but that struck me as a classic band camaraderie moment.

But, of course, nothing lasts forever. It's always funny how a year and selling over 2 million albums can change everything. The charismatic original lineup has already splintered. Justin is already recording a solo record (??). I'll still root for the lads, but it's a bummer when a band you dig implodes. For anyone who cares, click HERE for a great article on the band when they were still hungry.

Okay, I'll stop ranting now. I know, The Darkness aren't Led Zeppelin.. but for one brief shining moment they made me laugh and reminded me why I became a Music Geek in the first place. They were F-U-N. Hopefully they'll prove me wrong and produce a sophomore album worthy of their debut.. but it won't be the same without the glam disco pirate Scotsman on bass.

"Get your hands off of my woman, motherfucker..."