On 30th November 2005 at 16:33 Anonymous 1760 wrote...
Hardly a big suprise
By The Darkness
Don't get me wrong, I wanted to like this record. Like most rock fans wanting a break from the whole "distorted guitars and vocals which sound like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street" schtick of yer Slipknots and Papa Roaches in 2003, I thought The Darkness were a breath of fresh air - a group with their eyes shamelessly set on selling out Wembley five nights in a row rather than just staring at their feet and being happy to be anchored to the toilet circuit. Further than that, in Justin Hawkins they had a frontman who was not only a genuine natural showman but also charismatic and witty with it. The fact that he was also almost effortlessly able to get up the noses of the stuck-up indie kids at the NME whose small-minded worldview seemingly prevents them from liking anything where fun is the key factor (unless it's the arched-eyebrow fun of Franz et al) was also a plus point probably. I saw 'em at the Cockpit just before they broke through with "Growing On Me" and they put on an absolute stormer of a show - something which they'd soon be taking out of the clubs and into the world's arenas.
I got the first album, "Permission To Land", the week it was released and even now, it ain't bad. Certainly it has a good seven killer tracks on it - all of side one (the four singles plus "Black Shuck") and the closing duo of "Love On The Rocks With No Ice" and "Holding My Own". The only slight cause for concern was that there was a bit of a blip at the beginning of side two where there were three tracks ("Giving Up", "Stuck In A Rut" and "Friday Night") which sounded more than anything like afterthoughts - as if they needed stuff to pad out the album to ten tracks and just came up with three "Darkness by numbers" tracks and it certainly raised a couple of doubts in my mind as to exactly how much shelf-life this type of music actually has. And the less said about that bloody awful Christmas single they did the better. But, y'know, they were doing well and it was a nice break from boring toss like Nickelback and Papa Roach so I put those doubts to the back of my mind.
Well, it's two and a half years later and that "difficult" second album is here. And, unfortunately, those alarm bells are ringing louder than ever before. "One Way Ticket To Hell" is essentially "Permission To Land" part 2 on a much bigger budget but beneath the glossy production, there's something missing. Namely memorable tunes. You may have gathered this if you've heard the title track and comeback single already - it's, y'know, alright but it's no "Get Your Hands Off My Woman". And the disappointment only really continues from thereon in I'm afraid. "One Way Ticket To Hell And Back" is a classic case of "difficult second album" syndrome - it feels like the group used up all their good ideas on the first album and are now stuck in a world of "will this do?" retreads which, while not awful, don't really have anything to make them stand out. And, for a group who put showmanship to the front as obviously as the Darkness do, being boring is surely the last thing you'd want to be.
Occasionally they get close - "Dinner Lady Arms", despite boasting one of the worst song titles of the year so far, is a nice mid-paced wistful ode to lost love and lost youth while the anthemic "Hazel Eyes" and the big "Love Is Only A Feeling" style power ballad "Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" (probably the album's highlight) wouldn't have sounded out of place on their debut. But at the other end of the scale, "English Country Garden" sounds like the Fast Show's Colin Hunt trying to write a Queen pastiche and the wannabe-dark and disturbing "Bald" (which, again, tries to be ironic and clever and fails miserably) isn't far behind.
In the stakes of awards for "Most Disappointing Comeback of the Year", "One Way Ticket To Hell And Back" will surely be up there I'm afraid and it breaks my heart to tell you as such, not least because the world would certainly be a duller place without the likes of the Hawkins brothers around. However, the fact that the single fared very poorly by Darkness standards (not even making the Top 5) may hopefully jolt them into realising that the fans won't just hoover up any old rubbish and force them to have a rethink and unleash the ROCK beast that may just be lurking somewhere inside (less Queen and Bon Jovi and more Aerosmith and AC/DC needed here methinks). Till then, I'd advise everyone to give this a miss and wait for Ginger Wildheart's comeback album next month instead.