Music News

The Darkness

When The Darkness' Justin Hawkins adds a few extra trills to the last refrain from the band's debut album Permission to Land's "Love on the Rocks With No Ice," you feel like the demented partygoer who takes a few hits of nitrous just to keep up with the acid he's already ingested. Just when you thought The Darkness couldn't take you any higher, Hawkins' falsetto-on-meth voice gets you too high to care.

Permission to Land is a heavy-metal melting pot, stealing riffs from AC/DC and Urge Overkill with equal flair. American critics and music industry types are debating whether the British quartet's self-conscious rockin' -- "God the way she moves me/To write bad poetry" -- will translate to the States. Although this self-financed record raced to the top of the charts in Britain, the Atlantic is littered with the wreckage of previous British stars that fell short. And irony isn't a selling point among the pickup-driving, Coors-drinking "real" men who are the album's target -- and its target market.

In this case, however, that might not matter -- Hawkins' pipes alone may launch Permission to Land commercially in the U.S. Operatic campiness, after all, worked for Queen, another band unafraid to fly its freak flag. There's no shortage of "quotation marks" in Freddie Mercury's lyrics, but no one ever accused Queen of being too smart to succeed anyway. And, like Queen at its Brian May-soloing best, The Darkness makes music that overwhelms nearly every objection.

While The Darkness emphasizes its intention to make rock instead of pop -- it prefers American excess to English restraint -- Permission to Land actually is most impressive during its poppier moments. On the sweet, Big Star-reminiscent "Friday Night," Hawkins shows he can fit extra syllables into a line with the grace of Sinatra: "We indulged in all the extracurricular activities/We weren't particularly cool." "Givin' Up," surely one of the bounciest songs about heroin addiction ever written, makes a failure to find the right words equally effective. The "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh/Givin' up, givin' up givin' a fuck" lyric in the chorus becomes deliciously varied in Hawkins' delivery. Who cares whether he means it or not?

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Charlie Bertsch