Hot off the Press

The Darkness | Hot Cakes

by John Kindred
– Publisher —

The Darkness - Hot CakesThe Darkness arrival in 2003 heralded the return of campy, if not pompous, tongue-in-cheek hard rock wrapped in a visage of decadence, while backed up with serious chops and playing ability. The band was glammed out and quite far out in left field when compared to what was happening in rock at this time. The band’s bravado simply declared, “Love or hate us; either way you can’t ignore us.” While their debut Permission to Land delivered infectious rockers like “Friday Night” and “Love on the Rocks with No Ice,” the heavy ballad “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” or the defiant “Get Your Hands Off My Woman (expletive here),” Justin Hawkins’ falsetto vocals didn’t sit quite right with everyone, but The Darkness certainly did something right, as Permission to Land sold more than three million copies.

Where the debut shined, 2006’s follow up, One Way Ticket to Hell … And Back, was a less-than-spectacular affair. Selling less than its predecessor, the album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who is known for his work with Queen. The album didn’t have the same spark; maybe the band was trying too hard to recapture the magic of the first album. It wasn’t long before the train derailed, and the wheels came off. Justin Hawkins soon departed the band due to drugs, alcohol, ego or whatever, and the group continued on, renaming the band to Stone Gods. Hawkins started his own group, Hot Leg, with little fanfare. 2011 marked the return of The Darkness with original members Justin and Dan Hawkins, Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain. Taking the group out on tour, first appearing at the 2011 Download Festival, which preceded their winter tour, the preparation for releasing a new album with the original band was soon underway.

So, here we are in 2012, and The Darkness’s third studio album finally has hit the store shelves. Titled Hot Cakes, the syrupy cover depicts three bikini-clad women, lounging seductively on the top of pancakes, drenched in – yep, you guessed it — syrup. The album comprises 11 songs, one of which is a cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” One can only proclaim, from the album cover alone, that The Darkness is back.

Hot Cakes deliver the satire we have become accustomed to from these four Brits. Musically, influences from ‘70s rockers like Thin Lizzy, Queen, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC ooze forth, with a respectful tip of the hat by the band. The twin axe attack serves a rhythmic sense, much like Lizzy or AC/DC, as the Hawkins brothers play off each other. Justin Hawkins still takes his voice to stratospheric extremes, as we have become accustomed to. Yet, for those excursions, he delivers catchy vocal melodies. The background vocals are huge, harmony-driven affairs, aka Queen-esque. At times, the vocals are bigger and ballsier than the riffs over which they are being sung.

Honestly, the first listen of Hot Cakes won’t reveal the musical genius of the album, as one needs time for the syrup to seep in. Plenty of infectious melodies are built into each song. Infectious sing-along songs like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” or “Everybody Have A Good Time” hold true to the caricature of the band. And if you had any doubt, “Every Inch of You” hammers it home. “Forbidden Love” is Justin Hawkins’s best attempt at pulling off a Freddie Mercury Queen-inspired tune. “Street Spirit’” is one the heaviest tracks on the CD.

The band is fun, whimsical and cheeky, yet they deliver honest and heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll and not the comedic, cankerous trash dealt out by Steel Panther. The band believes in its image and its presentation. For them, it’s not a joke: it is what The Darkness genuinely is about, which revels in the decadence and excesses of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Love it.

Genre: Hard Rock

Justin Hawkins – vocals, guitar
Dan Hawkins – guitar
Frankie Poullain – bass guitar
Ed Graham – drums

Track Listing:
1. Every Inch of You
2. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us
3. With A Woman’
4. Keep Me Hangin’ On
5. Livin’ Every Day Blind
6. Everybody Have A Good Time
7. She Just A Girl Eddie
8. Forbidden Love
9. Concrete
10. Street Spirit’
11. Love Is Not The Answer

Label: Windup Records


Hardrock Haven rating: 8.5/10