Gosh, we live in a very serious world, don’t we? All sorts of important things going on; people trying to change the world with big ideas. You can’t watch a telly programme now without it being analysed and reanalysed, looking for some hidden subtext underneath everything, and everyone argues about what it really means and end up being really mean to each other. I’m a science student. I don’t like that. I don’t like too much discussion and analysis, I like simplicity. I add chemical A to chemical B and it either goes purple or explodes. I prefer spirits to beer because I like how efficiently they get you drunk.
So I think, wouldn’t it be nice if in all this seriousness, something could come along where anyone can analyse it as much as they like and the only conclusion they can come to is “This is silly”? Ladies and Gentlemen, I present my antidote to a complicated, serious world: The Darkness’ debut album, Permission to Land.
I don’t think the Darkness did themselves too many favours by giving themselves that name; people seem to assume they’re a massively heavy metal band and avoid them. They aren’t. Oh no. The Darkness deal in a brand of ridiculously campy glam-rock, with a fairly hard edge but harder than, say, Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. The most noticeable thing about them though is singer Justin Hawkin’s ear-splittingly high-pitched voice. He hits notes normally only reserved for opera singers and Kate Bush.
And off we go! We leap straight into an earth-shattering riff that forms the core of “Black Shuck.” It sets a great precedent. It’s a song about a monster dog breaking into a church near Lowestoft and eating everybody. Like I said… it’s a bit daft. Justin Hawkins presides over the songs with operatic gandoisity. The band finish the song with the sort of extended instrument-bashing normally reserved for the end of a stadium gig while Hawkins sings the word “fuck” at the top of his voice holding the note for a full thirteen seconds. Good grief, and that’s just the start?!?
Next the cheerful ditty, “Get You Hands Off My Woman,” motherfucker. Note, they left the “motherfucker” out of the title. Yes, they’re quite a sweary band. Ah, well. Lyricwise I don’t know where I stand; it’s a song about that dickhead in every club who hasn’t had the concept of personal space explained to him, and despite the title Hawkins points out “I’ve got no right to lay claim to her frame, she’s not my possession, (you cunt!)” Oh no, I’m ANALYSING it! I’d better stop. Musically I’ll admit it’s very heavy. Lots of cymbals, some heavily distorted organ too. And again, Hawkins finishes by singing “motherfuuuuucker!” so high only mice can hear it.
Then we have “Growing on Me,” which is one of my favourites: mainly because aside from being insanely catchy, jumping around like a happy hooligan and having expertly aimed guitar solos; the lyrics very cunningly have a dual meaning: All of them could apply to a love song. That would be fair enough. But after a few listens something clicks about them and you realise that they could all apply to something else as well: Pubic Lice. Wow. That’s bold. And after this realisation I laughed so hard I nearly gave myself a hernia. Take a look yourself! Among other bits: “I want to shake you off but you just won’t go/And you’re all over me and I don’t want anyone to know” and “Everywhere I go you’re there/I can’t get you out of my hair”. You get the picture. I love it. Top marks.
The next song is “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, which is on in KLUTE for god’s sake, so I don’t need to mention it. Silly, campy, wonderful, everyone knows it.
Could this album get any more camp, I wonder? Oh, yes it could. Oh very yes indeed. Next is the hilarious and incredible “Love Is Only a Feeling”, simultaneously a true love song and a breakup song depending on what mood you’re in, with the glorious chorus that goes “Loove is oonly a fee-ee-eeling (Dr-ifting a-way!) Aand when I’m in your aarms I start belieeeeving (It’s here to stay!)” With the bits in brackets sung by what sounds like a backing choir of castrati. Camp, overblown, with verses festooned with keyboards and mandolins as well as some incredible guitar solos. It’s hard to listen to without imagining Justin Hawkins sitting on a gigantic heart-shaped throne floating on a swimming pool full of roses while cherubs circle overhead throwing pink silly string over everything. It’s so wonderfully camp and cheesy and silly and is the only power ballad you will EVER need.
Perhaps to balance this out we then get a song about smack. Oh joy. It’s got a fun, rollicking power-chord structure while the self-destructive lyrics bounce along with an immensely satisfying rhyming rhythm: “My mamma wants to know/where I’m spending all my dough/Honey all she does is nag, nag, nag/But I won’t apologise/I’d inject into my eyes/If I had nowhere else to stick my skag”. Hawkins and lead guitarist brother Dan play Thin-Lizzy-esque harmonised guitar solos together through the second half.
Not a second’s reprieve after that onslaught; with a crack of the snare drum we go straight into ready-made driving song “Stuck in a Rut”, where Hawkins throws his falsetto so quickly it’s difficult to tell what he’s saying. It has rolling, rumbling rhythm that carries the song along like Hawkin’s escape-from-suffolk lyrics.
Wary, perhaps, that the campness needle might dropped below approximately a million, the band slam it right back into the red with “Friday Night,” the only song, to my knowledge, that manages to shoehorn the phrase “extracurricular activities” into its lyrics. It’s about “Dancing on a Friday Night,” but less of the club sort and more the after-school-club-my-mum’s-making-me-do-it variety. (“Monday rowing, Tuesday badminton, dancing on a Friday Night/ I’ve got ping-pong on Wednesday needlework on Thursday, dancing on a Friday Night”.) Laden with choirs and keyboards as a backdrop, it’s refreshingly original and probably the silliest song the album has to offer (which between you and I is saying something.)
“Love on the Rocks With No Ice” is easily the most “metal” song on the album with a crunch heavy enough to crush a blue whale. “We’re in the eye of the storm” Hawkins howls while the hurricane whirls around him. Loud, heavy and screamy and possibly not quite as accessible as the rest of the album but still managing to remain fairly silly. It ends with an almost minute long end-of-the-concert tailoff.
And there. The album’s over. Oh no wait, it isn’t. One more song. To be fair, “Love on the Rocks” would have finished the album brilliantly with an ending like that. But the band have one, last, very silly power ballad to finish with, full of epic, soulful guitar solos. It’s called “Holding My Own”. Another love song, perhaps? “I don’t need your permission/To take this matter in my own two hands…” Hawkins serenades. OH DEAR GOD, IT’S ABOUT HIM HAVING A WANK. Yes, that is how this wonderful album ends: a song about masturbating. To be fair I don’t know how else they could have rounded it off. And the very last sound, after the lovely echoey last guitar chord, barely audible, is what sounds suspiciously like Justin Hawkins’ cum noise.
I could almost call this album my favourite. It’s so much fun to listen to, and attempt to sing along to or play along to on guitar, that it’s provided me with many hours of entertainment, especially during otherwise very dull housework (as my housemates know far too well.) It’s camp, it’s silly, it rocks my sock and it’s a joy to behold. Definitely one of my top ten albums.
Video corner. Two songs: firstly a barnstorming live version of “Growing on Me” live from the Thetford forest:
Plus the unreleased music video for “Friday Night”, which manages to match how silly the song itself is.