DiS' very own Stryker Gloom dissects the new Darkness LP and exclusively talks to ex-bassist Frankie to get his view on the record, however briefly he wanted to comment...
The dream is over. One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back is a sturdy rock album with some saucy titles and odd instruments, but sadly it is less than it could or should be. We craved something bolder and as gloriously out of kilter as the trillion-selling Permission to Land to keep us believing in this thing called The Darkness. Lest we forget, they rose from the ashes of a very strange place – back then nobody cared for their bombastic music or quite believed their inappropriate live shows. Many even said they were a joke. But through brute force, astounding hooks, hypnosis and spaceships they convinced us that tardy old rock music was a worthwhile cause. Extraordinary.
So what do they offer us here?
Title track ‘One Way Ticket’ kicks off with an Andean nose pipe pastiche of the theme to Aussie psycho-mystery flick Picnic at Hanging Rock which then grumbles into the sound of substantial nostrils snorting coke. Bosh bosh goes the cowbell and in come your crunchy Hawkins guitar chops and ...Ye-Frickin’ Gods we’re off on Darkness roller-coaster album jaunt numero two. Two lines in and a beyond ridiculous falsetto hoves into view flowing into a punch-yer-lights-out chorus peppered with distant whoops, hollers and screams. Yep, the old pre-solo Sitar routine is used to fine effect and there’s a big-ass Mercury treatment happening there on the voice. As an opener it says “Remember us, we’re The Darkness - but more so.”
Track two is named ‘Knockers’, a reference, no doubt, to their numerous critical foes and musical detractors. It builds up from a chugging start, with open-road guitar and bar-room piano that nods to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the southern rock fraternity. Too sensible, so the track then explodes like a banshee into a monumental spasm of a hook with the straightforward words “I just love what you do with your hair, oh Yeah!” So far, so good. At track three the LP takes the obvious path and errs too much towards the cautious. ‘Is It Just Me?’ has a workmanlike driving rock motif that apes Def Leppard and echoes countless middle brow US rock bands but in reality it’s a not so brilliant version of _‘Growing On Me’_.
Starting with some damp eighties riffage, _‘Dinner Lady Arms’_ feels like a twenty year old out-of-focus video shot at night in a petrol station forecourt. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Good title, admittedly. Whereas _‘Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time’_ is Hell’s ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ and therefore nothing new and perhaps not a good idea at the time.
We’re back in the blockbuster business though with ‘Hazel Eyes’. It starts with a light, watery guitar melody – using a harmonic generator perhaps - but then breaks into a jigs ‘n reels type oriental smash hit chorus, Scottish pipes an’ all. Crazy, perplexing, maybe genius. ‘Black Shuck’ but better. Track 7 is a slow burn LA hair metal song about going bald, called ‘Bald’. The chorus is sung in the staccato tradition of oddball duo Sparks (whose _‘This Town etc’_ Justin covered on his summer solo release) and the accompanying guitars are of the have-a-go-hero variety. Essentially love on the rocks with no hair.
Oh please. ‘Girlfriend’ is frustrating. Hawkins could knock this sort of thing out standing on his head, which he probably did. A faux-Quo stomper with fiddle-diddle strings in the mould of ‘Givin’ Up’. The same is true of ‘English Country Garden’, a pub-rocker, this time with the accent on Queen. Whatever. And so to the final hooray of this odyssey - _‘Blind Man’_. It is the acoustic power pop outro to a Hollywood movie where The Darkness take over the planet. They got what they wanted but lost what they had.
As an exclusive aside: For those missing Frankie his favourite track is 'Hazel Eyes' of which he says _"I defy anyone after a couple of beverages to listen to ‘Hazel Eyes’ standing up and NOT get the Michael Flatleys."_
5Stryker Gloom's Score