Britain’s favorite catsuit wearing, Thin Lizzy loving Lowestoft boys are back. The Darkness have returned with their 2nd release, One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back. Expectations were high following up the band’s breakthrough Permission To Land. How does a band react? Simply, by creating “the finest rock album of the past twenty years.” At least, that’s what the press release states. Employing super producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, the Who, Bowie, the Rolling Stones), the band has managed to make a less obviously humorous album that expands their sound past the simple cock rock of their debut. Now, the band is more Sweet than Guns ‘n’ Roses.
The album starts off with pan pipes before the sound of snorting coke. Then the cowbell kicks in and the “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” like anti-drug title track warns of the dangers of yam yams. What will either surely polarize the Darkness’ fan base, the band uses strings and horns liberally throughout the album. This is most evident on the ballad “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” The strings almost completely overplay the guitars, at least until the harmony solo comes in. “Hazel Eyes” is a Celtic romp through a girl with eyes “hazeler” than anyone else. If the Trans-Siberian Orchestra started scoring Riverdance, it would sound like “Hazel Eyes.” “Girlfriend” is a romp with weird disco like flourishes that strangely reminds one of some more rocking Prince stuff. “Blind Man” will certainly have the Queen comparisons flying again. Its piano based, vocally dense structure sounds like something that Freddie Mercury and company would have been proud to call their own.
This album will certainly grow on you like a genital wart. Instead of singing about STDs, extracurricular activities and mystical hellhounds, the band has decided to focus on the more high brow subject matter of “Knockers,” old lunch room ladies finding love and baldness. So, is One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back “the finest rock album of the past twenty years?” With the exception of the band’s debut, quite possibly.