Living proof that nothing exceeds like excess, The Darkness announced in the past week that to mark the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Permission To Land, they will release a box set – in October, on Rhino – of the album, comprising four CDs and a DVD.
There will be demos, live versions from three separate shows, including Knebworth, and B-sides. The DVDs will have footage from those live recordings, documentary, music videos and behind-the-scenes footage. Too much? Compared with the original record’s 10 tracks, this will offer 66 tracks, so the answer presumably is too much is never enough.
Ridiculous, obviously. Hilarious, naturally.
This review from 2003 ends with a degree of scepticism about the longevity of the band. Given I’ve seen them half a dozen times or more since then (try this review from 2017), converted my then eight-year-old into a rabid fan (there’s nothing quite like hearing your pre-teen daughter singing “get your hands off my woman motherfucker”, even if she would only mumble the last word while we were around) and have laughed more at their gigs or in my interviews with singer and writer Justin Hawkins than anywhere else, I am glad to have been proved wrong.
But enough preamble. For now … guitar!
Permission To Land (Warner)
AND NOW FOR … the tomfoolery.
There have never been music genres more ripe, and more often used, for lampooning than heavy metal and its limp-wristed offsider poodle metal. Poodle metal? Think of those poodle perm bands such as Poison, Ratt, Warrant and of course Motley Crue who brought a refreshing (though not always intentional) touch of femininity to what musical Freudians had quite accurately called cock-rock.
It wasn’t enough in the heady ‘80s to wail a bit, sing about the number of the beast and riff so hard that your right hand may well drop off (and yes, you can insert gratuitous masturbatory reference here – it’s part of the deal). No, you had to prance in spandex, mince in heels and be-wig and be-foundation yourself to the point of Oxford Street drag show.
Britain’s The Darkness bring back both cock-rock and poodle metal in stunning and lurid detail. They have the bonehead riffing of AC/DC, some of the keyboard-driven pop of Van Halen, the pomp(osity) and wicked gleam of humour of Queen and the grandstanding of Bon Jovi in their power ballad phase. But topping it all is a truly terrifying falsetto that is part Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden and part Tiny Tim.
The falsetto belongs to spandex-wearing singer and songwriter Justin Hawkins who is having the time of his life throwing out lines such as “get your hands off my woman motherfucker”, trilling dramatically over the pomp spectacular I Believe In A Thing Called Love and camping it up while making an anti-drug point in the almost irresistible Givin’ Up.
If the Sweet-infused Givin’ Up suggests Hawkins is not just a parodist but a canny songwriter too, Growing On Me, (one of several songs that could be Van Halen circa 1984) and the incongruously new wave-meets-Styx sounding Friday Night confirm it.
Not that you want to spend too much analysing this, if for no other reason than any second now that falsetto may come back. As Dickinson so rightly put it, run for the hills.
Do we need this? Given that the sound of big guitars and bigger flares have been roaring back this past year courtesy of the Datsuns, Casonovas and Jet, it was only a matter of time before we went one (high-heeled) step further. Remember, you should never let rock take itself too seriously for too long.
And anyway it’s done in under 40 minutes, which may be slightly shorter than the Darkness career.