Self Made Man is back after his latest self-imposed break and this week he focuses on one of the buzz bands of 2012.
The Darkness were one of his favourite new bands back in the day only to ruin a beautiful relationship by releasing the decidedly dodgy One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back. So what now? Read on and don’t forget to check out our resident blogger every week.
I’m in two minds whether or not to buy Hot Cakes, The Darkness’ comeback album when it is released next month.
All my instincts are telling me to ignore it after falling out of love with the band as quickly as I fell into them.
But there is a sense of intrigue. Will their new material be a throwback to their debut release Permission To Land, music which introduced a form of classic rock to a new generation?
Or will it be another dud like One Way Ticket to Hell…….And Back? The sound of a band in self-destruct mode.
Overblown, over-complicated, over-produced and overrated. The Darkness spent a fortune trying to outdo Permission To Land but in the process, lost sight of the qualities which made that first record such an overwhelming success.
The first time I heard PTL, I was struck by its immediacy, its novelty and its ability to combine crunching riffs with singalong choruses and anthemic melodies.
But above all, it was fun. Music which raised a smile. Justin Hawkins was obviously talented but didn’t take himself too seriously. Bawdy, outrageous, egotistic and joker.
With his brother Dan wearing T-shirts, proudly proclaiming his passion for all things Thin Lizzy, their rock credentials were stamped too. They’d found the perfect balance.
And then it all went horribly wrong.
I remember taking my kids to see them live on their first – and so far only – Arena tour. I was not impressed.
Justin may have seen himself as the supreme showman, a 21st century Freddie Mercury if you like, but here was a band whose music unashamedly reached out to the younger generation. And yet his dialogue in between songs was sprinked with the f-word and crude jokes.
It’s not necessarily a moral point I’m making. But the frontman’s conduct was that of someone not quite knowing what role he was meant to perform. Circus ringmaster, favourite uncle or just another hobo?
Were The Darkness a cabaret act or the reincarnation of Sparks? Were they the new Queen? Or were they just another classic rock band?
When their second album came out, we got our answer. They didn’t even know themselves.
Gone was the instant appeal of Permission To Land. Instead, the songs lacked the catchy edge of its predecessor. The production tinged its impact.
So what will album number three be like? We do have some clues – and not all promising.
After splititng, Justin formed Hot Leg. The album was arguably even worse than One Way Ticket To Hell.
In contrast, Dan’s band Stone Gods released an excellent album and if there is one downside to The Darkness’ reunion, it is their demise.
Yet for The Darkness to rediscover former glories, it is Justin and his own unique, sometimes misdirected talent, which must come to the fore.
Earlier this year they released, as a free download, the song Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us. It’s not a bad effort, though not half as good as the video which accompanies it, featuring a stunning girl stripping to her underwear.
If The Darkness are to flourish, then Hot Cakes needs to rock, it needs to roll but above all, it must make us smile. Otherwise, they’ll be left with cold crumbs again.