Friday, March 31, 2006

I Just Got Back From Hell

... because I finally downloaded The Darkness' latest album, "One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back". As the title indicates, The Darkness have a way with a joke, but they also have mad skillz as hair-metal type musicians.

Extremely popular in the UK, the band has somehow not made as bit a hit in the US. I suppose it shouldn't be a huge surprise, since their brand of Queen-meets-Limozeen farce-rock doesn't exactly fit in with the hip hop/pop dominated charts here, nowadays. Not to mention, I think the youth of America probably don't get the in joke and tongue-in-cheek attitude that make The Darkness so awesome. When, in concert, lead singer Justin Hawkins is levitated over the audience in a giant pair of flashing tits, it's clear that it's both mocking and just for the sheer fun of it all. There's a sense of meta riffing-on-Spinal-Tap-riffing-on-Black-Sabbath that is funny and knowing, but at the same time, revels in the stupidity of rock n' roll overkill. The fact is, however, that the band is also enourmously talented - capable of lighting fast guitar riffs and fist-pumping falsetto harmonies - and the combination of the two makes them stand above the crowd.

Having greatly enjoyed their first album, "Permission To Land", I was somewhat worried about their sophomore effort, but it does not disappoint. While arguably less hard-edged and headbanging, "One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back" plays up their homage-to-Queen style even more than before with more vocal layers and keyboards. This is no suprise once you learn that they hired producer Roy Thomas Baker, who cut his teeth on some of Queen's biggest hits, including "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's a great fit, considering the oft-told tale that the brothers Hawkins discovered that Justin could sing during a karaoke rendition of that song, and it pays off with songs like "Is It Just Me?", "Dinner Lady Arms", and, yes, "Knockers" (with its giggle-worthy chorus of "I just love what you've done with your hair!") kicking the jams just as much as almost anything on their debut.

At the same time, the album may be even sillier, including a guitars-as-bagpipes nod to Big Country on "Hazel Eyes" (which along with the chorus "And she said 'hoots, I cannae get back tae me hoos in bonny Scotland'" includes the immortal line "I had never seen a set of eyes more hazelerer") and the most musically dark track on the album, "Bald", which is, indeed, a horrified take on male pattern baldness ("his hair, at an alarming pace, running away from his face").

In short, if you ever enjoyed rocking out to 70s and 80s metal while at the same time recognizing the glam buffoonery the genre encouraged, you can't go wrong with The Darkness.

Now, as an added bonus, here is what is, for numerous reasons, possibly one of the best music videos ever, "I Believe In A Thing Called Love", off of "Permission To Land".

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