The Darkness' "Southern Trains" Penetrates the Dark and Petty Heart of Britishness

I'm not saying this is a good thing.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
September 28, 2017, 11:58am

Early last year, Kanye West released the song "Facts" which, in part, calls out the entire Nike corporation—his relationship with them ended in 2013, before he moved over to Adidas. A year before, in 2015, Jay Z did "Stream of Consciousness," which hit back at his TiDAL streaming rivals Apple and Spotify, as well as YouTube and Google. And as more rappers become businessmen too, I'm sure we can expect a great deal more corporate beef in the years to come.

Both of these songs could pretty much only ever have come out of America, though. Self-made rap heavyweights who have expanded their own business empires taking swipes at their huge business rivals through the medium of song is basically the American Dream. And until now, we've not really had a British equivalent. Until now. Until now.

Right basically what I am trying to say is that The Darkness have a song off their new album Pinewood Smile (out next Friday, 6 October, if that's of interest) about Southern Trains, as in the private UK company that runs (or barely runs) a train service, the long and short of which is they say that Southern Rail is shit. And in the same way that Jay-Z and Kanye's beeves with companies are actually kind of glamorous and very specifically American, this may well be the most British song ever conceived of. Please hear it above, and accept my deepest sympathies.

I'm not saying this just because they're moaning, though that is part of it. It is true that we are a country of people who get bothered by the tiniest shit. It tends to go like this: as a British person, you will either bottle all of your customer dissatisfaction up until it spews out of your mouth as a fully-formed, sub-par rock song punctuated by metal riffs, or you will passive-aggressively mention the personal slight committed against you by the waiter in your local Zizzi (he got your garlic bread order wrong and brought it over with cheese on) once a week until you die; until you're literally in hospital, dying, hooked up to six different machines, and you beckon in your loved ones close for a final word—maybe, they think, about how much you love them, that this isn't the end, that maybe you might meet again after all—and you go "I asked for no melty mozzarella" and then you fucking die. I myself have recently .@'d an airline trying to complain in order to get free shit. No Brit is immune.

So yes, the low-level complaining about a basic service is part of why this Darkness song "Southern Trains" is very British indeed. Sample lyrics include:

It's a journey into pure despair
There are fucking assholes everywhere
I can smell this sad shit in the air
Fuck you, Southern trains, we're not getting anywhere.

I did not say it was an opus. But it is knowing. The Darkness are ultimate piss-takers so obviously this is not an entirely serious song; the pettiness of it is almost certainly well known to the band. But that is exactly what is annoying about it. By doing this song they have proved themselves to be a band full of the most British men, those guys who like, were funny at school in a clever but also very Doctor Who way, and have just got bang into The Thick of It and Peep Show and will literally not stop quoting either. Their defining characteristic is that they are funny and they will have you know it. And they will prove it—the apex of their hilarity—by doing a joke music video which takes them longer than they would like to admit about something mad that songs don't usually get made about ("Southern Trains" and their absolutely horrifically run service). And they'll give it a really hilarious video with like Snapchat filters or something stupid, because cultural trends aimed at women make the best jokes, obvi.

The Darkness are these guys. You know these guys. They are the British-est guys. And this, this song with its horrible combination of the British love of proper customer service and lads who have based their entire personality on liking Stewart Lee but also Family Guy, is a damning indictment of our entire culture, whichever way you look at it. As if James Corden wasn't bad enough.

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