The Darkness are heirs to the glam schlock of bands like Queen, and the natural successors to the overblown braaivleis rock of Meat Loaf. If you missed Permission to Land, their great 2003 debut (3.5 million sales and going strong), and if you haven't had the good fortune to watch footage of lead singer Justin Hawkins scream around a stage in his white catsuit, well.... come into the darkness, my friend. Come into the darkness.
And the first rule of listening to The Darkness is, get a sense of humour. Despite the band's oft-pronounced disclaimer that they aren't about parody, but about writing good songs that are true to a glam rock ethos, it's almost impossible to take The Darkness seriously.
This is doing them a disservice, though. The point is, all rock 'n roll has always been a parody of itself. Think a sneering Jagger using his big lips as the Stones logo, or think Oasis's maudlin excesses. The difference is that The Darkness don't hide the fact that rock is a pisstake, and that makes them difficult to listen to, at least for 'serious' rock fans. Your average Def Leppard fan won't have a problem, though. Snigger.
Consider "English Country Garden", which is the song Queen and Jethro Tull would have made if they ever got drunk together:
"They did a quiz at the village fete and we came last/Everybody laughed at the two of us/ But I've never seen a bale of hay move so fast/ She was a bona fide forking genius."
The lyrics are both a homage to the bucolic life, and a painfully accurate insight into the rambunctious horniness that lies behind that particular myth. But they're also pretty silly, and that probably the defining characteristic of The Darkness. Silly, but lots of meat if you're willing to think about it. But why think! Just crank it up and start playing your air bagpipes.
And when I say bagpipes, I'm not just constructing a witty metaphor. There actually are bagpipes on this album, on Hazel Eyes. And there's a sitar and panpipes, so watch out. It's not a perfect album, by any means. Justin Hawkins' multitracked shrieking falsetto is overused at times, although there's enough variation to stave off irritation. But One way ticket to hell... is good enough to sit on your summer playlist for a long enough to exhaust the season's frenzy.- Chris Roper
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