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Permission to Land
Artist: The Darkness
Label: Must Destroy / Warner, 
Length: 10 tracks, 38.19 minutes

Recently voted winners in the categories of “Best British Rock Act”, “Best British Album” and “Best British Group” at the recent BRIT Music Awards, The Darkness appear on first glance to be one of those evil, Satan-worshipping bands that your well-meaning youth pastor would warn you never to listen to. But begone any assumptions! Let me reassure you, The Darkness are pure satire. If you think they’re any danger to society, you’ve missed the point. 
 
The lyrics are basically doggerel about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Highlights (or should that be lowlights?) include “Black Shuck,” which glorifies a fiery beast with “crimson paws” that demolishes a quaint little English church; “Get Your Hands off of My Woman,” where the expletives almost outnumber the other words; and “Givin’ Up,” an obligatory ode to the joys of taking drugs. However, the band does manage some decent love songs with “Growing on Me” and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Add to all that the falsetto hollering of lead vocalist Justin Hawkins, the long hair, bandannas and spandex outfits and you have a real-life mockumentary band that out-Spinal Taps Spinal Tap. It’s a good thing they totally rock!  
 
Truly, this is no half-hearted songwriting effort. Every track features a blindingly strong melody, great hooks, solos, and powerhouse energy. It’s one of those records that you can sing and dance along to at full volume while no-one is around (hopefully!) Half the fun is mimicking the ridiculously high vocals. And herein lies the true light that shines in The Darkness. 
 
Heavy metal - 80’s style - is easy to mock. However, excessive flippancy forgets the sacred role the genre played in providing affirmation and community to millions of young people alienated by the decade where greed was good and excess was success. In spite of its perceived negative influences, it provided a safe haven in which those commonly thought of as uncool or desirable could bang their heads, party on and find a cathartic release from the hypocrisy of the dominant social ethos. 
 
I get the sense that The Darkness were deeply affirmed by that scene and are celebrating and preserving its legacy in their music. Nestled quietly (not!) at track eight is the song “Friday Night,” with the following revelatory words: 

Hey you! Do you remember me?
I used to sit next to you at school
We indulged in all the extra-curricular activities
We weren’t particularly cool. 
Monday, cycling. Tuesday, gymnastics. 
I’ve got bridge club on Wednesday, archery on Thursday. 
Dancing on a Friday night, with you. 
See the lady I adore dancing on the dance floor. 
God, the way she moves me to write bad poetry. 
Dancing on a Friday night, with you.   
Such innocence is uncharacteristic of usual heavy metal fare, then and now. Like U2 in the early '90’s, The Darkness turn rock’s clichés on their head by embracing them, showmen that they are, laying bare the contradictions and producing something of greater substance and meaning. That is perhaps a little highbrow considering the band’s deliberately spoof image, but quite obvious in a TV interview I saw with guitarist Dan Hawkins, as he enviously praised Coldplay frontman Chris Martin for the serious and honest emotional quality they invest in their music. 
 
Go find out for yourself whether The Darkness are for you. They’re very loud, and very funny. Whatever you do, don’t start preaching that they are playing the devil’s music. The joke will be on you. 
 
Brendan Boughen  4/18/2004
 
 
 
   
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