Three years in the making, the new album from Redondo Beach punks The Darlings proves it was time and effort well spent. “The New Escape” released via Gadsen Records is a stirring and enjoyable blast of punk fused with country rock, classic rock and rock ‘n’ roll. It has a warm familiarity that one cannot fail to get swept up in and a resulting outcome of being unable to resist joining in with the compulsive choruses.
The Californians have been unleashing their tunes since 2005 to always an eager relish from their fans, though with a slightly different line-up to the one of Buddy Darling (vocals/guitar), Chris Kranes (bass/vocals), Zacc West (guitar/vocals), and Josh Fasen (drums) that combine wonderfully on “The New Escape”. Winners of the 13th annual Ernie Ball Battle of the bands in 2009 the band has soaked up some influences current and past to lace their own artistry. The most notable influence is Tiger Army but there are also moments where the likes of Social Distortion, Bad Religion, and Living End come to mind too, all in a positive way though as The Darlings make it all part of their bright sound without ever relying on it.
The album starts off with a little deceit, the lead into ‘Hypnotize’ employing a Doors keyboard sound that raises eyebrows in surprise before bursting into a strong solid punk sound. With distinct basslines, firm drums and bursting choruses it is a great start to the album. The effected vocals work really well and for this track is where the Tiger Army comparison comes in.
‘Where Do We Go’ comes in next and is a relatively standard number bringing a little touch of Bad Religion and is most notable for some classic rock play from the guitars and guest vocals from Jason Cruz of Strung Out. It is a steady track though soon forgotten as the flow of great tracks increases and from this point “The New Escape” really starts to pick up.
The soulful ‘American Dream’ and the countrified rock of ‘Broken Heart Still Beating’ ripple with emotive passions musically and lyrically as they grab the listener with infectious hooks and sing-a-long choruses perfectly, neatly setting up the arrival of the country classic rock/punk joy of ‘Head Hunter’. With a Tiger Army/Living End flavour, maybe unsurprising as it features the guitar skills of Tiger Army’s Donnie Nemarnik, the track feels satisfyingly much bigger and heavier than it really is.
The two best tracks on “The New Escape” breakout halfway through the album; ‘Untitled’ kicks off to be followed immediately by ‘Fight Alone’ both pure punk rock pleasure. On both tracks the bass of Kranes is addictive, deep and throaty it adds real depth to the songs whilst the drums of Fasen steers and drives forth with immense skill and crisp power, the tracks. Darling’s vocals and the group harmonies are siren like pulling the listener into the heart of the songs to freely join in.
After such a stunning sequence there is bound to be a comedown but it is so marginal to not be relevant when assessing the release. ‘The Aggressor’ is a direct and satisfying track, whilst the likes of ‘These Wings’ with more great riffs and stunning bass lines, and the closing ‘Let’s Roll’ slip into the ear eagerly. The album closer is especially buoyant with an anthemic feel not too far away from a Flogging Molly or Pogues type sound. Another track where one cannot avoid finding them self ripping the heart out of the song at the top of their voice unless graced with good vocal cords and talent of course.
No one can claim The Darlings are setting punk rock alight with new ideas and sounds but with “The New Escape” they have undeniably enhanced the current quality of the genre with an album that will give a boost to anyone’s day.