erasing clouds

Permission Granted: A look at The Darkness' Permission to Land

by paul jaissle

O poor Darkness: if only you had been born 20 years earlier you could have been the biggest rock band on the planet and Def Leppard would open for you, not the other way around. You also wouldn't have to deal with the inevitable cruel sneers and jeers from hipsters everywhere who find themselves disgusted that someone could love such a big guitar powered ode to arena rock without an ironic bone in their body. Don't worry guys, we can share a knowing nod realizing that they are the ones missing out on one of the finest slabs of pure guitar rock since Appetite for Destruction.

The past two weeks I have found myself more or less musically paralyzed by this disc, unable to remove it from my player and slowly plotting the plans to mobilize an army to place the band at their rightful place at the top of the charts here in the US and eventually the world. Since taking it upon myself as a personal mission of sorts to make the Darkness a household name the reviews have slowly trickled into magazines and the video for "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" has made a handful of appearances on MTV. But it is important to stress that the band at least a chance and shouldn't be written off at the first sight of spandex cat suits or the sound of furiously tapped guitar solos.

So why waste all this breath defending a band before people even hear it? Because I'm afraid that most people will simply scoff without so much as a second listen: that would be a great crime and a disgrace of the highest order. Liking The Darkness has nothing to do with trend following, irony, or even record label brainwashing. No, it has everything to do with loving rock and roll: the greatest artistic for of expression of the past half century. In this case, it is the pure romantic power of crunchy guitars, melodic riffs, and bonehead poetry: the tight trousers and light shows are simply icing on the cake.

The classic rock influences here are obvious: AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, KISS, Queen, etc. but they never get in the way. Aside from a few moments where the guitar players start emulating their heroes exactly most of this disc sounds genuinely original and far from a simple retread. The songs are the focus here, and what songs they are: from the metallic stomp of "Black Shuck" (a tale of a hell beast who, we are told, "Don't give a fuck") to the lighter hoisting majesty of "Holding My Own," Permission To Land asks very little of the listener, but offers so much. Along the way we are offered up some of the tastiest nuggets of melodic, metal tinged guitar rock including "Growing On Me" (a perfect power pop number hidden underneath the glittery sheen of some glam metal thunder) and "Stuck In A Rut" (a rollicking ode to fast cars and open roads). The most obvious element of these songs is singer Justin Hawkins' falsetto which is sure to turn some off on initial listen (although, it would be difficult for anyone not to crack a smile at his delivery of the chorus "Get your hands off my woman, motherfucker!"). But, once you get past the comedic value of his voice, it's hard not to see even a glimmer of brilliance in the writing of these tunes. Has there been a more perfect pop rock song than "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" in recent years? And Lou Reed himself couldn't have written a more fitting account of heroin addiction than "Givin' Up": ("…Everyone but me is destined just to be slaves to the remorseless grind/But I found an easy way out, sticking that fucking shit into my arms"). Ten songs in 38 minutes without ever letting things drag? Perfect.

But, no matter how much I rant and rave, I know someone will see this as a commercial attempt to make a quick buck: a trend thought up in some label executive meeting. Think about it though, what about this band would be appealing to kids? And how many groups are going to spring up overnight sounding like the Scorpions? As much as the band deserves to top the charts, I don't see it happening, which is too bad really. I mean, honestly, when's the last time you smiled the instant you put on a record? Or wanted to play air guitar in your bedroom late at night? That sort of joy cannot be manufactured or faked.

So, the line in the sand has been drawn: either you love the disc, or hate it and everything about it. Not a lot of middle ground here. You owe it to yourself (and the band) to at least give it a chance. The Darkness have requested Permission To Land, and I for one will respond with a sturdy salute, 'Permission Granted.'

Issue 16, October 2003

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