You may remember the Darkness as the band you rocketed to stardom in 2004 with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and their debut album Permission to Land.
Then the band became the ultimate rock n’ roll cliché; the real-life Spinal Tap. From Justin Hawkins’ drug use and subsequent rehab, spandex catsuits and guitar solos on a levitating white tiger, the band split up in acrimonious circumstances after their second album, One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back, which was about as overblown as any album could be.
To put it in the words of the band’s frontman, Justin Hawkins, “The fucking Darkness are back!”. This time, the new album, Hot Cakes, like Permission to Land, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It begins with “Every Inch Of You”, a song that appears to be a somewhat different direction for the band. However, it’s plainly obvious that it’s a Darkness record when Justin Hawkins screams “SUCK MY COOOOOCK!”.
It has the hallmarks which made Permission to Land such a successful album. It’s an album which is fully aware of its over-the-top nature.
”Livin’ Each Day Blind” is a classic power ballad, only with far better lyrics than most other songs of the same formula. “Keep Me Hangin’ On” lays on the Lynyrd Skynyrd/ZZ Top guitar grooves, while ”With a Woman” has unmistakable pub-rock muscle.
The premise of the album is summed up in “Everbody Have a Good Time”, with the lyric, “Take off your thinking cap/and listen to your heart”.
But it’s a solid record, with a few surprises too. “Forbidden Love” starts as quiet, quirky pop before a monumental chorus, while the power-pop riff of “Concrete” brings back the heyday of 80’s hair metal. And if you’re looking for an answer to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, that’s here in the three-minute head-rush “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us”.
Hot Cakes knows the appeal of big, dumb rock n’ roll. And big, dumb rock n’ roll is something The Darkness do very well. The album revels in the combination of self-aware, pompous indulgence and solid feel-good songs backed with heavy guitars. Throw a few power ballads in and you have yourself a record.
While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Permission to Land, it’s still a solid album with an infectious feel-good vibe, and like the first album, it’s a breath of fresh air in a music industry full of mediocre, formulaic pop, whiny indie music and every festering turd backed by Simon Cowell.