Rhythm & Views

The Darkness

There's a reason the guys in The Darkness jokingly call themselves the straight Queen. And it's not just because of singer Justin Hawkins, whose dog-whistle squeal could level chandelier factories. Or the group's perfect homage/ mockings of early '80s pop metal, right down to the AC/DC riffs and references to genital warts. Not even the British quartet's spandex and flash-pot doused live sets full of David Lee Roth leaps and all out cock rocking.

It's the fact that The Darkness has the balls to be completely outrageous and fun and not give a damn. With everyone either reveling in their pain or hussying up for the cameras, a group that rocks like the world stopped at the Flash Gordon soundtrack is almost incomprehensible. Bombastic guitar solos and wails are as passe as parachute pants and Oliver North jokes. And when the group started getting attention last year on England's pub scene, the music press there was uncharacteristically vicious, flat out labeling the band silly. And they're right. But The Darkness writes such perfect fist-pumping, arena-rock anthems about sex, drugs and extracurricular activities that you can't help but throw up the devil horns yourself.

And that's the true brilliance of the band. Everything about the group's debut disc, Permission to Land, is crafted like an inside joke--or at least you hope. The cover art mocks Boston's ever-present space-ships-and-babes theme. The inside photos ape '70s excess with spreads full of unitards and Ted Nugent-style thrashings. And the music itself is a Jack Black wet dream, full of lines like "flames licked around the sacred spire" and riffs that beg all to gather around the cauldron of rock. There are even plenty of harmony-laden guitar solos for the guys who still bow to Yngwie.

It's all ingeniously funny and a nostalgic flashback to a simpler, more flamboyant time. "Get Your Hands off My Woman," a track about a scrawny guy who can hit notes reserved for Mariah Carey acting all tough, is a perfect throwback to those days when guys in makeup were considered badasses. Debut single "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" would have killed at Live Aid, its mammoth hooks leveling anything in its path--even a million fans on two continents. And "Black Shuck" is the hit Ronnie James Dio never had, complete with Dungeons & Dragons lyrics, gut-busting guitars and banshee howls. Yeah, it's over the top, and a bit silly. But unlike the original practitioners, the members of The Darkness don't dupe themselves into believing they're making great art. They're mocking someone else's idea of art and finding greatness in the process.

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