Listen - and be damned!

CD review: One Way Ticket to Hell ... and Back (Atlantic) by The Darkness

Who? Batty bats belatedly out of a musical Hell, The Darkness’ surreal 2003 ascent involved an Englishman of indeterminate age, with a standard-issue stadium rock mullet topped off by a receding hairline, in a skintight, chest-slashed catsuit, shrieking a falsetto lament about herpes called Growing On Me. Since cracking America with their debut long-player Permission to Land, they've sacked the bass player with the ridiculous porn star ‘tache. It’s currently too early to determine whether this is a career-helping or hindering move.

Should You Believe in a Thing Called The Darkness? Put it this way: one song (Hazel Eyes) not only features bagpipes, it layers on an appalling electronic effect that mutates the lead guitar track to resemble another dreaded tartan windbag (which, at their most tuneful,  sound like a bag of cats being stamped to death). But if only that were all. The track's compelling panoply of horror continues, unabashed, taking in military drums, nonsense lyrics about “bonnie Scotland” and a barmy, operatic, Oriental vocal hook.  Elsewhere, we get synthesised panpipes, a sitar solo, a camper-than-Christmas Queen pastiche, a love song doubling as a schoolboy's wet dream (Dinner Lady Arms) oh, and the confessional title track deals with the singer's rampant cocaine habit in flippant, comedic terms ("The first line hit me like a kick in the face/Thought I better have another one just in case")

What’s the crack with this lot? If it doesn't make you laugh, it probably isn't for you.  That said, in interviews The Darkness seem to take themselves awfully seriously.  On record, they delve gleefully into hyper-uncool music hair metal, glam rock and power balladry that's been long off-limits to any self-respecting axeman. But The Darkness counter their inherent, tongue-in-cheek silliness with rockin’ widdly riffs (they can really, like, play, dude) and singer Justin Hawkins' impressive lyrical dexterity.  The large-conked Brummie not only boasts the kind of surefire falsetto that would make a karaoke-loving eunuch glow with pride, he also has a winning way with a ribald rhyming couplet.  This album amply showcases his subtle lyricism (example below).

Sample lyric: ''She said, ‘Do you have a match?’/I said, ‘Yes, my cock and Farmer Giles's prize-winning marrow!''

 -- Published by In Residence, 2005


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