Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The rise and fall of hair metal: A play in three acts, by The Darkness

Play it: The Darkness One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back

I'm a bit reluctant to recommend this album, but it's just quite possible that it's flaws reveal the genius of The Darkness. What? Ok, hear me out.

When The Darkness released their debut (Play it: Permission to Land) there was some buzz, as it encapsulated what drew a lot of people to Hair Metal's guilty pleasure. It was full of hooks, presented as earnest (even though we know it to be a show,) and it was... well, fun. Now, since that album, The Darkness have toured and, through PR releases for the new album, have fretted over the pressure to live up to being 'the best band in the world.' The press release for One Way Ticket to Hell starts off with this bit of hubris:
Everything you've heard is true. All of it. The exhaustion and the fear, the pressure, paranoia and pan pipes, the breakdowns and break-ups, the sackings, sitar solos and endless studio sessions, and now ultimately - with this, their second album - the rebirth and redemption of The Darkness.
The story goes that as they went to record One Way Ticket..., they went through drug and alcohol abuse and even broke up briefly... but they persevered and finished this overproduced release, which quite fittingly, encapsulates the excess of Hair Metal just before it collapsed.

The album opens with pan flute fanfare ("the world's greatest pan-pipe player recorded up a mountain in Peru,") telling us right off what we're in for, and then chugs into the title track/lead single, which is like a Behind the Music for the band, complete with the snorting of blow. The rest of the album plods through excesses (orchestras, Mellotrons, Moogs, sitars, flugelhorns, saxophones, bagpipes) but there's nothing as grabbing as the singles from their debut (especially "I Believe in a Thing Called Love".) In fact, the themes seem to be about getting older... relationships, coming to terms with mortality, male pattern baldness (funny to hear from a band in the 'hair' biz,) that is to say nothing like the sex, drugs and rock n' roll of the debut. A couple songs are groaners ("Girlfriend" is cringeworthy indeed,) but there are some highlights. "Is it Just Me?" comes close to capturing the fun and hooks of the debut, and "English Country Garden" is a fun pop ride that's like Queen on speed.

The excesses and themes of the album (and the Press Release back story) all point to The Darkness mirroring the rise and fall of Hair Metal, all in the process of three years and two albums. Perhaps I'm giving them too much credit, but it feels so WWF to me, and the act is too perfect. All they need to do now, to complete Act III of The Rise and Fall of Hair Metal, is to make a video for the ballad "It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time," in the style of GnR's "November Rain," complete with Justin at his piano in an Axl Rose doo-rag.

The props for the video are for sale... and Stephanie Seymour might be available for a cameo.

Hair Metal's slight return (Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman)

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drake leLane said...

The Darkness One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back

01. One Way Ticket
02. Knockers
03. Is It Just Me?
04. Dinner Lady Arms
05. Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
06. Hazel Eyes
07. Bald
08. Girlfriend
09. English Country Garden
10. Blind Man

Scott said...

I'm not quite sad to say that they are in fact one helluva guilty pleasure, and I plan on finding a copy of the new cd.

Seriously, it's fun as hell to listen to. People need to understand that.