What to do in an era of black-clad metal music merchants, money-hungry hip-hop clones and retro-country clowns? Face it, modern music is about as exciting as watching a detergent commercial. Everyone either smirks like a criminal or smiles like a damn fool, or worse, sneers at the camera like they want to bludgeon you. Perhaps it all reflects some national malaise, a crisis of musical consciousness. So what to do? Rock out, of course. The Darkness are here to help.
The Darkness' 2003 debut, Permission to Land, propelled the ballsy, spandex-wearing, falsetto-hurling English rawkers to stardom on the basis of Justin Hawkins' helium-filled vocals and the band's Spinal Tap-esque efficiency. Just when every baby boomer had their own Beatles/Queen/Dead cover band to love, along came The Darkness, laughing at the current load of alt-rock wannabes and promoting an immaculate glam/power-rock agenda. The Darkness' singular success owes to their utter loyalty to the '70s mantra of more, more, more, including the garish theatrics, ridiculous antics and weedly-weedly guitar solos of the classic rock canon.
One Way Ticket to Hell … and Back is not the surprise of The Darkness' debut, but it does confirm their knack for writing nonsensical rawk that equally winks at and lifts from Queen, Foreigner, Zeppelin and, ahem, Liberace. You can keep your trendy blues-rock duos, smelly folk eccentrics and skinny-tie-wearers; The Darkness will waste those weak-kneed poseurs with a rollicking one-two punch to their soft white stomachs.
Hell's opener, "One Way Ticket," is a cock-rock celebration that simultaneously recalls Def Leppard's "Photograph," Queen's "We Are the Champions" and Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz." The Darkness come down hard on the AC/DC-worshipping "Is It Just Me?" while "Dinner Lady Arms" is as grandiose as rock comes these days, featuring a maddening falsetto morphing into an immediately timeless chorus and a deft groin pull accompanied by a full shout-out: "Huggghh!" Equally insane, "English Country Garden" is epic prog so sublimely ridiculous that it will leave you peeling off your clothes, be they spandex or woven cotton.
The Darkness make no guarantees and offer no solutions. They do present ultimate entertainment in brilliant, sugar-hit bursts. These days, what else do you need?