Do you ‘believe in a thing called love?’

Matt Siblo

We live in troubling musical times. While this might be something of a broad, oversimplified statement, those who spend as much time as I investigating the meaningless goings-on of all things, rock ‘n’ roll would probably be inclined to agree. In an age of Clear Channel payola and major label funded “Indie” rock, it can be hard to see through the smoke and mirrors that major-label record companies or widely distributed publications will try to pass off as the “return of true rock and roll.” But in the fast-paced, over-saturated world of rock music, it can be hard to discern between long-standing artists and the disposable flash in the pans. Popular music has become such a revolving door industry comprised of here today, gone tomorrow fads that comparisons between musical trends such as Electronica and the long forgotten game of Pogs would not be a stretch. With that said, no band in recent memory has wreaked more of utter trendiness or displayed more characteristics of a Furby than UK’s answer to Spinal Tap, the Darkness.

If you’ve managed to avoid the band up until now, chances are your luck is just about to expire. The Darkness’ debut album, “Permission to Land,” has already gone four times platinum in England and has started to catch on in America due to the heavy radio/MTV attention of its first stateside single, “I believe in a thing called love.” With the band’s campy style and throwback sound, you’d swear what’s old is new again. The only real problem being that, well … it wasn’t very good the first time around.

Nothing plagues me more than ’80s nostalgia. While the ’80s produced some worthwhile and enduring pieces of art, for the most part it existed as a hallow time span where righteous excesses mirrored the emptiness of the yuppie’s American dream. Popular musicians were no stranger to the shallow haze of the ’80s, where even respectable musicians went down a very bizarre, commercialized path. For proof of this, I suggest you examine the musical output of the following great artists during this musically heinous decade: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Neil Young, The Who, etc. However embarrassing these ventures could be considered, nothing would blemish America’s musical credibility more than the rise of the “hair metal” genre.

Hair metal was a trend that started around the late ’80s in Los Angeles, more specifically in clubs on the now infamous Sunset strip. The movement’s cornerstones were based upon on gender-bending fashions, sexual debauchery, and huge punchy choruses that owed more to the Bay City Rollers than Motorhead. Luckily, around the early ’90s, the masses came to their senses and denounced their former ways while hiding their Poison buttons in the process. But the Darkness is here, it seems, to change that. They’re poised and ready to bring back the good times of those “Saturday night bands” that once reined supreme in years gone by. (It is to be noted that the vast majority of these bands never left the music scene, but instead, just retired to playing smaller nightclubs mostly in the New Jersey area.)

But the question remains: Who missed this watered down rebellion? Would anyone really want to go through another round of pretty boys in make-up and spandex who prided themselves on a song type known as the “power ballad?”

The disturbing answer has been a resounding yes, as proven by the band’s now overwhelming success in Britain which basically means we’re next. Historically, success across the pond is a fairly accurate barometer of how popular something will be in the states (American Idol and the Strokes being just two examples).

And if quadruple platinum sales are any indication of what we are in store for, it seems as though America is destined to fall on some “dark” times. I’m admitting very weary of witnessing such an occurrence, as I fear the next logical step in this process, would be the inevitable signing frenzy of other bands in the similar vein. Does the world really want (or need) another Whitesnake? Or even worse a band whose main influences include Whitesnake!

But of course, the Darkness and their fans would have you believe that they’re in it just to have some fun, and I believe it. However, these “fun” intentions are hardly convincing for me to view their deplorable and juvenile gimmick as justifiable. In the band’s press release, it states that the band’s inception came after one supposedly knock-out performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at a karaoke bar. After reading this, it had struck me that the Darkness was indeed exactly that: A karaoke experiment gone terribly, terribly wrong. But despite what I may think, the band seems to be doing just fine. So fine in fact, they were named this week’s “pacesetter” by Billboard magazine meaning their album had the biggest percentage of sales growth for the week. What’s wrong with everyone? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

But then I began to notice a very obvious correlation. How shocked could I be with a karaoke band’s success considering the nation’s third most watched show, American Idol, is nothing more than a slightly modified version of glorified karaoke! Our love of rooting for the underdog has been taken to absurd heights with the Darkness’ popularity the icing on the cake! And make no mistake about it; the Darkness seems to have everyone licked. The band has both mainstream audiences and the hipsters alike, dusting off their old Def Leppard LP’s while simultaneously embracing a hedonistic culture which was long thought to have expired. It seems as if as long as a band apes a style whose popularity had waned, a new incarnation can somehow seem fresh and original.

While I understand that the band’s shtick is probably one large ironic joke, it doesn’t make the music any better, nor do I see the point in subscribing to a record from a band that seem to be self-parodying a completely worthless genre. It’s almost as if the Darkness is the jovial musical embodiment of self deprecation, and they’re laughing at their fans for their stupidity. Whatever the case may be, the only thing that sustains me is the self-satisfaction that I will receive upon visiting my local record stores this summer, where I will undoubtedly find “Permission to Land” mixed in with long-forgotten copies of Alanis’ Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” and REM’s “Monster.” Until then, it seems as if I’ll have to believe in a thing called hatred.