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By Ashley Cooke
Susan Yu finds The Darkness’ comeback to be underwhelming…
The Darkness are back from the dead. Not literally of course. The Suffolk kings of leotard and glam rock have returned after an extended hiatus with their third LP, Hot Cakes. With their first new release in seven years, the band has reformed after a bitter breakup and rather unsuccessful side projects by various individual band members. Believers of a thing called love, should we rejoice uproariously or retch uncontrollably?
Well, the reception for this eleven-track combination has been rather ambivalent. Quite unlike their phenomenal debut Permission to Land which previously took the music world by storm, racking up 1.5million sales in 2003.
Hot Cakes opens with the raunchy and raucous ‘Every Inch of You’. Frontman Justin Hawkins screeches with his high octane vocals and trademark falsetto, retelling the group’s meteoric rise to prominence in the early 2000s: ‘My entire adult life was spent defying the man/Now I got the whole arena eating out of my hand’. One thing that The Darkness does well is creating uncomplicated repetitive melodies that we can sing along to and this is exemplified in, ‘Keep Me Hanging On’. The overall package of this energetic number is quite conventional, nothing over the top, but effective nevertheless, a solid combination of catchy guitar riffs, a steady 4/4 drumbeat framework, and a pleasant solo in the middle.
‘With A Woman’ is a feisty rock number detailing the demise of one relationship, of ‘closing the door’ to one woman and falling in love with another, whilst ‘She Just A Girl Eddie’ is redolent of ‘Strange Town’ by the Jam, with similar guitar licks in places. My favourite track is perhaps ‘Living Each Day Blind’, where for once the rockers are talking some sense. ‘We’re losing sight of our dream/Let’s chase it/Leave our mediocre lives behind’. This LP is arguably loaded with parodies of 1970s rock, bearing traces of Queen, AC/DC, and even Thin Lizzy at times.
Both ‘Forbidden Love’ and ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Love’ are sweet light numbers with poppy hooks, adding sprinkles of inconsequential icing powder on a ¾ risen cake. Surprisingly, the band included a blistering hard rock cover of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ along for a bake. Frankly, they should have just left Radiohead alone.
Lyrically, Hot Cakes is mostly downcast, but not so much that you want to end it all. Not a brilliant comeback but still sufficient to satisfy the hardcore fans at least. Nothing overly ambitious but there is undeniably some feel-good rock present. Right now, The Darkness are finding themselves in eastern Europe, opening for the queen of pop, aka Lady Gaga. So, these rockers are continuing their tradition of donning flash costumes and eyeliners under the bright spotlights. Even though this album does not reach the same heights as Permission to Land, the cakes produced aren’t half bad. They don’t fall flat as a pancake but neither rise to full blown cupcakes. Still worth a devouring I suppose.