Review Summary: One Way Ticket To Hell And Back steers in a bold and different direction to its debut, but dare I say it's more fun that its predecessor?
The Darkness brought a new lease of life to the world of Classic Rock with their smash hit debut album “Permission To Land” in 2003 and gave fans more than their fill of wailing guitar solos played in tight spandex. The band became an overnight success and enjoyed fruitful success from both album sales and touring, and the buzz surrounding them meant they were one of the biggest bands in the UK.
After extensive touring the band went back to the studio to record “One Way Ticket To Hell And Back”. Problems arose during the making of the album though when Frank Poullain left the band, stating his departure was down to “musical differences” despite the fact Poullain co wrote nearly half of the albums tracks. The album was also met with further setbacks when the band kept failing to meet several release dates, primarily down to Justin’s heavy drug use and rarely being in the studio with the rest of the band - eventually created friction with the other members.
Despite the rocky creation of the album and the mixed reception received from fans “One Way Ticket To Hell And Back” is an album I enjoy as much today as I did back then. The band could have gone down the same route and pulled out Permission to Land 2, but they took it in a different direction, a direction that is both odd and enticing. Firstly, the weapons of choice for this album aren’t the most conventional, nor obvious, choices a Rock band would pick for a guitar driven Rock N’ Roll LP, but then if you haven’t been paying attention, The Darkness pick experimentation over conventions for this outing and made an album where guitars sit in the background while the whacky experimentation play with your senses. The title-track will raise a few eyebrows when it gets to the sitar solo or the bagpipes and marching drums being played in “Hazel Eyes”; almost every track has something nestled underneath its Rock foundations: synths, organs, piano's, bagpipes, flutes, Mini-moog, Sitar, the band really went to town on experimenting and it makes for a very fun ride.
The album wouldn’t be worth spit with all these exotic instruments if the songs didn’t hold a strong backbone, luckily nearly every song on this LP is on the mark and does something right in one way or another. Justin’s vocal hooks are extremely contagious throughout; you’ll have “Is It Just Me”, “Hazel Eyes” and “Dinner Lady Arms” stuck in your head for weeks after just one listen, but the songs are backed up well with heavy, punchy grooves than will make it impossible to sit still from the fun vibes the songs create. Most of One Way Ticket’s tracks have something whacky going on, but there are some straight edge Rock tracks to be found, closing track “Blind Man” throws vocal harmonies at you, the kind that are strongly influenced by Queen while Justin plays the piano or “Bald” shows the band haven’t completely forgot about their roots just yet; it’s probably the heaviest track on the album and is guitar dominant, but even when you think you've got something a little normal Justin ends up poking fun at the dark tones the guitars create, by matching the sound with hilarious lyrical themes which aim their crosshairs at U2’s Bono losing his hair.
There really is a lot of variety on this record, and it rarely stumbles. The only song that really goes a little too far is “English Country Garden”, from the opening of the piano to Justin’s awful lyrics and vocals it all becomes a little too much. But having said that, even “English Country Garden” holds the same fun continuity the rest of the album has. And that’s what this album does best, it’s such a fun album to listen to, every song will have you bobbing your head. Sure the album doesn’t hold any real depth or meaning, but it’s guaranteed to lighten your mood, and, fan of the debut or not, who doesn’t want that?