06 Feb 2006

On the beat: Fading lights

+ posted by FlamingWhopper

Are Ulster live visitors The Darkness, who single-handedly revived the once reviled stadium rock format, now on a One Way Ticket to oblivion?

That's the question on many observers' lips - as big-mouthed mainman, Justin Hawkins and co attempt to claw back some of the success which once made them the biggest band in the land.

Just two years ago, the four-piece put a smile on the face of millions with their fun take on poodle perm metal rock.

Their debut album, Permission To Land - recorded in just two weeks - rocketed to the top of the UK charts and shifted 3.5m copies around the world.

Songs such as I Believe In A Thing Called Love, Get Your Hands Off My Woman and Love On The Rocks With No Ice were over the top, but knowingly humorous, slices of hammy, codpiece rock pop.

With Hawkins strutting around in spandex leotards like Freddie Mercury, The Darkness was obviously a band who laughed at themselves and, in turn, ended up laughing all the way to the bank.

Ear-splitting falsetto vocals, arena-sized rock riffs and mercilessly catchy choruses made The Darkness the metal rock band you could admit to loving.

Their peak came when they won three Brit Awards in 2004 and played a sold out UK arena tour of the UK to 130,000 fans.

The Darkness also lit up Belfast's Botanic Gardens with a typically over the top performance that September.

So where did it all go wrong? The immense pressure of following the success of Permission To Land grounded the band's efforts to come up with a second album.

The group's initial efforts to record at Rockfield Studios - where their heroes, Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody - saw Justin Hawkins temporarily walk out and then the permanent dismissal of moustachioed bassist, Frankie Poullain.

In cahoots with Queen producer, Roy Thomas Baker, The Darkness decided to go for the 'everything, but the kitchen sink' approach on the album, One Way Ticket To Hell And Back.

The title track and recent hit single, One Way Ticket showed that the band had not lost it sense of self-deprecation, with Peruvian pan pipes and the satirical sound of someone snorting cocaine.

But the rest of the album, with massive orchestral blasts, horns, bagpipes, mellotrons, sitars and more mature songs, about relationships and redemption, has signally failed to duplicate the success of its predecessor.

Although heavily-hyped, the One Way Ticket album only managed a Number 11 spot last December and shows few signs of securing a higher placing.

Their upcoming 12-date arena tour, which started in Dublin's Point Theatre last night and new single, Is It Just Me? are obviously designed to reinvigorate the band's fortunes.

But, it seems that the UK's love affair with the rock light relief of The Darkness is fading fast.

? The Darkness are at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast tonight. Tickets, priced at £30 (seated) and £27.50 (standing) are available from the venue box office, on 90 739074 and Ticketmaster outlets. Support comes from Juliette And The Licks.

Credit: John McGurk | www.sundaylife.co.uk

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