The Darkness return to form

Mike Sibilla

I get no love for loving The Darkness. For me to admit that I enjoy this British band’s fractured take on classic rock is to make a pact with the devil. I must face the barrage of disdain from all factions of the music-listening populace.

The indie rockers turn up their noses because I am breaking the holiest of commandments: Thou shall not fraternize with frat-rock. My response is, “Hey, at least they’re not listening to Weezer.”

Classic rock purists balk at The Darkness because they think the band is making a joke of the classic riff-makers they hold so dear. To that I say, “Nothing could be further from the truth; The Darkness has a love affair with classic rock-they are paying homage, not parodying the genre.”

I also have to add that classic rock itself is a self-lampooning genre. Kiss’s reputation has more to do with image than music. When Led Zeppelin wasn’t writing songs about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, they were penning 10-minute epics about “The Lord of the Rings.” And in the case of Van Halen, I have three words: David. Lee. Roth.

I would argue this is what makes The Darkness (and classic rock) so compelling is, when it comes down to it, these bands are willing to rock out with their [expletive deleted] out.

That ability is what made The Darkness’ debut, “Permission to Land,” rock so thoroughly, and it makes their sophomore effort equally great.

“One Way Ticket to Hell … And Back” is more of a grower. It lacks any songs as immediate as “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” but there are moments that prove The Darkness is the smartest dumb band around.

Roy Thomas Baker, producer of the first four albums by Queen, helms the production duties. This is a very appropriate move, as Queen is the band The Darkness most resembles. It is apparent that The Darkness has big ambitions with Baker behind the boards.

The album opens with Gregorian chanting and a pan flute fanfare. Suddenly we hear lines of coke being cut and snorted before Justin Hawkins enters with a guitar lick and his multi-octave falsetto. During recording sessions for this album, Hawkins dealt with addiction to cocaine, “One Way Ticket” details, with humor and a smashing sitar solo, his road to recovery.

Hawkins’ ability for clever lyrics and double entendres is in full swing on “Is It Just Me (Or Am I All on My Own Again)?” I’ll give you a few minutes to ruminate on how witty the line actually is (don’t worry; it took me a couple of listens to get it too). The guitar riff isn’t too shoddy either.

The Celtic stomp of “Hazel Eyes” is both exhilarating and hilarious, and “English Country Garden” is perhaps the best song on the album. Detailing a romp in (where else but) an English garden, it is full of hair-raising moments both musically and lyrically. One of my favorites is, “Frolicking in the autumn fields were we/ I cherished you and you tolerated me.”

Songs like these make The Darkness a band worth rooting for, but there are times when the album just doesn’t take flight (a problem that was absent on “Permission to Land”). A track like “Knockers” should be a sure winner from The Darkness, but a weak chorus and no mention of said body parts make the song rather, well, flat.

While there are times when the album does flag, there are enough moments that bolster the album to make it a worthwhile listen. Ultimately, a solid album like “One Way Ticket to Hell . . . And Back” causes me not to care if I get shunned by my peers for loving The Darkness. Screw ’em-more room for me to practice my stage-diving, air-guitar antics.