The Darkness: Crotch Rock It

The DarknessThe Darkness Flails Across the Land

“Get your hands off my woman, motherfucker.” Out of any mouth, this is an ultimatum. But soaring in falsetto over a retooled version of the riff from Urge Overkill’s “Sister Havana,” it’s flash pot Valhalla. Justin Hawkins knows this. He’s the fruity-haired, falsetto-throated frontman of Norfolk, England’s The Darkness, who with sparks flying, drumsticks twirling, and spandex stretching in all the right places have answered the famous musical question “Why don’t more bands sound like Savatage?”

Of course, The Darkness doesn’t really sound like Savatage. They sound like every great New Wave of British Heavy Metal band that Savatage was trying to sound like – Maiden, Priest, and the rest – but keep their fists gripped tightly around the Rainbow Rising-era ballsack rock of Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio’s Rainbow. Naturally, all of this was eaten up like watercress tea sandwiches by the British music press, who initially eviscerated the band’s guitar solo scissor kicking and histrionic vocal simonizing, only to see and embrace the genius (or at least marketing genius) behind the enormous Marshall backline.

And after Hawkins and his headband’d gave the dog a bone at South by Southwest last March, their US press has been bulging like a cucumber wrapped in tinfoil. (Check the prominent pub in Rolling Stone‘s “hot list” issue and the stodgy Kurt Loder MTV news segment, or just continue reading this orange and black bandwagon broadsheet.)

Since the source material is so bombastic, it can be difficult to see the line between parody and influence. After all, this isn’t skinny suits, anti-melodies, and arty, literate references to Television or the Velvet Underground. It’s 12-foot drum risers, zebra stripes, and foofy lyrics like “Flames licked round the sacred spire / And the congregation’s last line of defence [sic]”. Yet this couplet – from “Black Shuck”, the fab opener to their debut full-length Permission to Land – makes it crystal clear that if The Darkness is gonna cop the grooves of British hard rock circa 1978-1983, they’re gonna revel in the pretension, too. If you don’t believe that they at least mostly mean it, you’ve got another thing comin’.

Permission really is a good time. “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” show off Hawkins’ highfalutin yowl over crackling, stadium-ready rock and roll that makes you want to do that instrument-less lead singer stationary run popularized by so many tube-sock wearing mouthpieces of the Reagan era. Later, The Darkness adds their own preposterous prepositional phrase to a lyrical cliché with the harmonized guitars and British steal of “Love on the Rocks with No Ice”. The record finishes up (at a concise forty minutes) with – uh-huh – a power ballad. What’s great about “Holding My Own” is the way Hawkins flutters the title line. What did he say? “Somhodinevon”? “Staying old in nylon”? The former could be one of those fantastical lands overstimulated heavy metal singers used to write gatefold concept albums about; the latter could be a final comment on his band’s staying power. After a flurry of fill-up-the-heavens guitar solos and triumphant flaming cymbal drum fills, “Holding My Own” ends with a breathy intake of air – the real final word on The Darkness. Emasculation meets exploding power stations, and tribute shares a tour bus with tight hooks and tighter cat suits.

Buy your Darkness bar mirror/jean jacket back patch now, and show your support for this newest wave of British heavy metal’s one-band campaign against the last vestiges of nü metal. Fifteen minutes is the number of the beast!


10 thoughts on “The Darkness: Crotch Rock It”

  1. Haven’t heard any of it so I can’t completely judge, but it makes me wonder whether the focus of this band is the SHTICK or the MUSIC. Great shtick for the times, considering the whole retro 80’s thing going on, but in 5 years will I ever want to hear this again?

  2. this was funny when it was called spinal tap, little less funny when it was called tenacious d, played out when its called the darkness

  3. this was funny when it was called spinal tap, little less funny when it was called tenacious d, played out when its called the darkness

  4. Not a comedy band like Tenacious D, not parody like Spinal Tap, just good ol’ fashioned rock n roll. Never has there been a more necessary time to stuff your crotch with cucumbers.. and if enough do it we may change the whole world.

  5. There’s some redeemable qualities to The Darkness, but I think they come down too far on the side of camp for my taste. Then again I have a reverence for metal that most don’t. Bottom line: Given the choice between seeing these guys at a small club or Quiet Riot in a bowling alley, well, set up the pins.

  6. The Darkness are rooting around in the same bins that Andrew WK did when he put out I Get Wet. There was a divide then too, over whether he was a joke, or if it was about time someone started rocking. Both the Darkness and Andrew WK mine nostalgia and put it out as fresh takes on a dusty genre. Why is it good to ape irrelvance again? What makes it new? I’m frustrated to see such acts get credit as reminding people that rock is supposed to be fun, as if that has been forgotten. I think the quiet riot comment is dead on. The Darkness and Mr. WK should go straight to the state fair and skip all the behind-the-musicery.

  7. Actually their not a parody. It’s funny how jaded some idiots have become thanks to Nirvana. Their having fun in the video. Nirvana and everyone else made you forget that it could be done for 14 years. Well, its the real deal, hair metal is back and u cant deal.

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