By Stephen Deusner
In concept, The Darkness seems like a joke. All that spandex, sly innuendo and Justin Hawkins’ banshee falsetto—how could we take seriously any band that look upon Sweet and Queen with the same reverence most artists reserve for Joy Division and The Ramones? In practice, however, The Darkness may be a laugh, but One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back proves they’re no joke. Time has granted them the self-awareness their forebears lacked, but their punchlines come at no one’s expense but their own. These 10 songs make ridiculous excess a virtue, thanks to former Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. Why settle for one layer of vocals when five or six or 27 will work, and why not throw in pan flutes, bagpipes, electric sitar and the most grandiose string section since “Silent Lucidity”? The band tempers all that bombast with semi-serious songwriting in which every word seems to have a double meaning. When Hawkins sings “Is it just me or am I on my own again?” a Nashville songwriter sheds a jealous tear. So who says The Darkness can’t be smart and stupid at the same time? Oxymoronically—or even just moronically—One Way Ticket is serious fun.
By Dennis Mahoney
O’ Darkness. My hopes were reasonable: give me some catchy rock to crank in the car. Nearly everything on Permission to Land fit the bill. But it’s just not happening this time. The Darkness is trying to make big, vivacious music for singing along and playing air guitar and having plenteous cheap sex and equally cheap beer. Am I wrong? Is anyone really expecting more? Yet far too much of One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back is filigree; intricate, ornamental metal. Bland melodies and choruses, single-testicle attitude—not nearly as fun, surprising or visceral as the band’s debut. The title track is a satisfying opener, and “Knockers” sounds hefty despite never quite taking off. But by the time you reach “Dinner Lady Arms,”
you realize the album sounds less like reinvigorated metal and more like the last hour of
MTV’s original Headbanger’s Ball in 1990. Imagine this is The Darkness’ debut and remove the title track; no one would care about this band. There’s still hope for The Darkness, though. They’ve got a lot of moxie. But if you like Queen, listen to Queen and if you
like ’80s metal, you’re better off rediscovering Dr. Feelgood.
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