Album Review: The Darkness, "One Way Ticket to Hell ... and Back" (Atlantic)
With any luck, the spotlight will finally fade out on The Darkness after enough folks hear the band's sophomore effort.
The joke hasn't changed: Justin Hawkins is still singing '70s-style power anthems with tongue firmly planted in check while the rest of the group rips off Styx and Boston. But listeners who were likely laughing along with the band on its debut, 2003's "Permission to Land," are now more likely to be laughing at the group.
The Darkness comes across more than ever like a "Saturday Night Live" skit on this album. In fact, it's near impossible not to think of actor Christopher Walken--and hear his immortal SNL line "I gotta have more cowbell"--as the band indeed hits that hallowed rock instrument for all its worth on the lead track ("One Way Ticket"). And that, believe it or not, is when the album starts to get bearable. The grandiose intro with the pan flute solo sounds like something straight out of a prog-rock nightmare.
The record doesn't improve one iota as Hawkins screeches through the tender love ballad "Knockers," after which the band milks the BTO cow on the obnoxious and pointless "Is It Just Me?" The group jumps a decade for the driving, '80s-style rocker "Dinner Lady Arms," which sounds like an outtake from an episode of "Miami Vice."
Throughout the album, Hawkins unleashes what has to be the most annoying falsetto in the history of rock.
"One Way Ticket" is supposed to remind listeners of a time when rock was big and bold. Instead, all it does is jar memories of when rock was bad.