I love classic rock revivalists. Especially when these revivalists are actually good. I mean, while none of these artists may hold a candle to the legends which they attempt to emulate, it’s nice to not have to bleed from the ears whilst listening to them. The Darkness meet this criteria. From the fantastic hair metal-esque guitar work; to the flamboyant, operatic (think Freddie Mercury) vocals; to the excellent song writing, a lot of people have come to realize that The Darkness really have something here. Their debut album Permission to Land
is by far the best example of their raw, unfettered talent. Permission to Land
is a modern rock triumph in a classic metal package. The whole ‘rock-star’ vibe is here: long hair, sex, drugs, shredding guitars, pounding drums, psychotic vocals, etc. Meaning that from end to end, Permission to Land
is simply a fun, balls-out rock album.
Aside from the fact that you’ll actually enjoy it, Permission to Land
is also a runaway commercial success. 5 times platinum in the UK alone; critically acclaimed reviews; a 2004 Brit Award for Best Album; hit singles “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” and “Growing on Me” firing up the charts, the list goes on and on. So, we find ourselves with an album that’s been met with rave reviews, stellar sales, and prestigious awards. And it’s also one of those classic rock revivalist albums. How awesome is that? C’mon, you know the little headbanger in you is crying with joy.
Permission to Land
is an excellent example of how to do all the right
things while writing songs/making an album. If only The Darkness had followed most of these practices for their sophomore album (2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell And Back
), I have no doubt that I wouldn't be praising their debut as being their greatest triumph (so far). You have to remember that even though The Darkness are only two albums into their career, they’ve already faced several problems (major and minor). Most notably would be the departure of bassist Frankie Poullain in May of 2005. However, before this unfortunate split, The Darkness were at their peak, and this is well demonstrated on Permission
When you first pop the album in, you are met with the intro guitar riff from “Black Shuck.” This song seems to pour out attitude from the get-go. For rock ‘n’ roll, this is a good thing. Next, you hear the high-pitched croon of soprano Justin Hawkins. Well-written lyrics; fun rhymes; and nice, heavy music, make this the perfect introduction to the fantastic 10 song wonder that is Permission
. As “Black Shuck” fades away, we find ourselves listening to one of the most flamboyantly comical songs on the album: the concise, foul-mouthed wonder that is “Get Your Hand Off My Woman.” Whether or not you find The Darkness to be funny is really all up to your sense of humor. However, when I hear a guy (who happens to be singing like a girl), tell (presumably) another guy to get his hands off of his woman (throwing in the ever-appropriate 'mother***er' for emphasis), I can't help but smile. Either way, it’s easy to tell from the first two tracks that The Darkness can be brash and heavy, but how do they stack up as songwriters? 'Growing on Me' showcases their first attempt to put some actual meaning into a song. "Growing on Me" is one of the best songs on the album (and considering the fact that they're all excellent), that's saying something. Great lyrics, even better instrumentation, and Justin Hawkins’ Freddie Mercury aspirations are highlights of this one. Although, however great “Growing on Me” is, it’s eclipsed more often than not by the song that follows it.
“I Believe in a Thing Called Love” is rock and roll. From the lewd lyrics to the singer yelling 'Guitar!' just before the guitar solo, "I Believe" is one of The Darkness' greatest classic rock triumphs. It’s also their biggest commercial success, and probably the main reason why Permission
did so well in the sales department. Interestingly enough, it’s not even the best song on the album. Actually, that honor goes to the next song, "Love is Only a Feeling." There's really not much you can say about this song. Sure, I could ramble on about how it’s brilliant, how the vocals are perfect, the guitars are excellent, the lyrics sync with the music incredibly, etc., etc. But I’m sure you, dear reader, wouldn’t give a rip about that. Let’s just put it this way: If you ever have some spare change lying around, and want to buy one Darkness song from iTunes or something, make sure it’s "Love is Only a Feeling." You won't regret it.
Ah, we’re back to the comedy aspects of rock with the drug rage that is "Givin' Up." While it's probably the weakest song on the album (which means it's still excellent, by Permission
's standards). Funny, sing-a-long lyrics, full of filthy language, and drug talk are the highlight of "Givin' Up." The guitar solo is also quite interesting, as opposed to the more straight-forward solos on the album. Either way, this is a good song, but it just can’t quite stack up to everything else Permission
has to offer. On "Stuck in a Rut," I'm not quite sure what The Darkness are shooting for. The song is average at best, until vocalist Justin Hawkins breaks off into a little “Gollum meets Yoda” schizophrenic-type conversation with his ‘Master.’ At this point the sings:
Master? Tell me Master, tell me! Ooooh! Thank you Master! Thank you Master!
He then breaks off into some maniacal laughter. As odd, random, and eerie as this is, I have to admit, it saves the song from being a total loss.
"Friday Night" is one of my favorite songs from Permission
. As my mother would say, it’s a dancing song (rather ironic, considering the lyrics). The lyrics are probably the best on the album, and Hawkins’ voice matches them superbly. He does some of his best singing on “Friday Night.” Perfect synergy flows between the music and the vocals. "Friday Night" is a relatively soft song, but The Darkness pull it off spectacularly. The only real drawback to it is its length. At 2:57, it’s the shortest song on the album. A little more length on a song like this would’ve been welcomed by most with open arms. "Love on the Rocks With No Ice" takes us back to the hard rock. Sexual lyrics and heavy guitars (the guitar solo, in particular, is excellent), as well as the great drumming (best on the album) are the best things about "Love on the Rocks." On the whole, it's a great late inning hit. The tenth and final song on Permission
is ballad "Holding My Own." The Darkness couldn't have picked a better way to end their debut. Going out on a soft not is exactly what they need to do, and “Holding My Own” hits the target dead-on. Everything from the fantastic vocals and lyrics, to the great guitar solo contribute to make this one hell of a song. A most worthy end to one of the most impressive debut albums in recent history.
At the end of the day, you have to admit, that if you look past all the glamour, the hype, and the cheesiness, The Darkness are actually a really good band. Permission to Land
is them in a nutshell: their greatest strengths and weaknesses in Compact Disc form. This is one of my favorite modern rock records, and I recommend it to almost anyone I come across. The only real drawback the album has is its longevity. It stays true to the 70s glam-rock that it replicates: it’s a short album of short songs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not a common practice in the fantastic modern age we live in. No matter how you spin it, though, Permission to Land
is a fantastic album. Who knows? In 20-30 years, it may be remembered as a classic that started a rock dynasty, or a classic one-hit wonder. All I know is that it’ll be a classic.