Welcome to The Darkness, a band determined to put entertainment back into rock music. Anyone who has seen the video for their latest single, "Growing on Me", will have at least an inkling of what we're on about. For those who haven't, it goes like this: Flying dinosaur 'mounts' alien spaceship, which gives birth to four eggs, which immediately hatch into four young children dressed as outrageous 70s rock stars. The children climb into a helicopter, but by the time it lands in the grounds of a huge country manor, the boys have transformed into the band.
What follows is an orgy of good old rock 'n' roll excess, as singer Justin Hawkins prances around (in a pink, slashed to the waist catsuit) like a demented Freddie Mercury, with perhaps a bit of Jagger thrown in. Meanwhile the equally rock 'n' roll attired members of the band do their stuff, visiting every heavy rock cliche along the way. As the video ends, Hawkins, still wearing 'that catsuit', plays the song out with the most amazing guitar solo in front of a wall of amplifiers. Pure class.
But then The Darkness are the saviours of heavy rock. And the proof is Permission to Land, their debut album, released on 7th July 2003.
Seventies revival bands aren't anything new - witness current media darlings The Datsuns and The White Stripes - but The Darkness are very, very different. For a start they set out to entertain and go about their business with smiles on their faces, which makes for a refreshing change. Then there's the sheer showmanship of Hawkins, who apparently makes their gigs a whole new experience. This utterly over the top flamboyancy has certainly got the music press going, as many wonder whether The Darkness are another Spinal Tap - and if they are just having a joke with us.
Bass player Frankie Poullain sums up the band's attitude on their website."Everyone's too uptight these days," says Frankie. "I hate the arrogance of bands who think their petty emotions are interesting. If you look at bands from 25 years ago, people have smiles on their faces. We're bringing a bit of that back."
Are they for real or not? Well, it doesn't really matter if you like their music and they've got the songs to do carry it off. And they have. Permission to Land begins just as it means to go on: Scintillating guitar riffs, Hawkins' falsetto voice and some damned good tunes which have an instant appeal.
The Darkness wear their influences: AC/DC; Thin Lizzy; Led Zepellin; Rainbow and a host of other bands on their sleeves, but this doesn't get in the way. The heavy rock attitude pervades the whole album, with its - ahem - 'interesting' song titles, such as "Get Your Hands Off My Woman", "Love on the Rocks with no Ice" and "Love is only a Feeling". But that was the thing about the 70s - there wasn't any political correctness.
They are also a dab hand at turning a slow tune, as well as the hard-rocking variety, as the album's closing track, "Holding my Own", demonstrates. The lyrics are pretty choice, too, but I can't elaborate further than that - at least not on a BBC website. Let's just say it's well and truly earned the 'Parental Advisory' sticker that lives on the CD case.
All in all this is an impressive debut album, and like a breath of fresh air to those fed up of the introspective and ultra-serious bands such as Coldplay and Radiohead.
The Darkness are going to be huge.
Review courtesy of BBC Shropshire Music --Jack Smith
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