Back when I hated the Darkness – keep in mind, this is before I had actually heard any of the band’s 2003 debut, Permission to Land – my vision of these glittered hooligans centered on stretched fabric from crotch-plummeting costumes, tendencies for reviving music that should long remain dormant, and the type of internal strife NME writers dream of (or make up on occasion). In other words, before frontman Justin Hawkins’s sharp tongue left me in a constant state of sing-along two years ago, I assumed the Darkness was a lot like the band’s sophomore effort, One Way Ticket to Hell And Back, a shamefully empty record resembling the manufactured amphitheater rock I had dreaded in the first place.
As its fantastic debut falls into the band’s wake, the Darkness returns almost entirely void of the sleezily charming charisma, cheesy-but-powerful guitar riffs and undeniably catchy melodies that kept Permission to Land riding the line between guilty pleasure and just plain awesome. Instead of such chuckle-worthy party starters as “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and “Get Your Hand off of My Woman,” we’re given orchestral schlock (“Blind Man”), trying-too-hard attempts at a single (“Girlfriend”) and derived anthem after derived anthem (see tracklist).
Although it’s worth noting the giant sound that comes thanks to the crisp production work of Roy Thomas Baker – famous for having his hands in releases from Queen and David Bowie, among others – and Hawkins’s deeper-than-you-would-think double-entendre-filled lyrics, it really means nothing to mention the departure of bassist Frankie Poullain (the dude with the ‘stache) because it’s doubtful he had much stake in the band’s creativity. Rather, One Way Ticket to Hell‘s blandness seems like the perfect example of the difficulties of riding a revivalist routine longer than necessary. Whereas Permission to Land culled together the best throwback references to hair metal and hard rock to the point where you loved the Darkness’s renditions almost more than the pilfered originals, One Way Ticket to Hell plays like an extended mix of “Living on a Prayer.” And one Bon Jovi classic is quite enough.
Stream ‘One Way Ticket to Hell And Back’