One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back
By: Eric Greenwood
The Darkness’ over-the-top, winking hair metal send-up amassed an unpredictable following with its debut, Permission to Land, thrusting the English quartet to international fame on the heels of the blistering “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” single. And yet, despite all the millions of albums sold worldwide, the band still has to fight to avoid being tossed aside as just another jokey, one-trick pony clogging up the airwaves.
The band’s reaction for its sophomore effort is to pile on the histrionics, up the production costs, and force as many vocal overdubs into its songs as any band has ever dared. And with Justin Hawkins’ polarizing falsetto- that’s a lot to expect, even of the most giving listener. Expectedly, One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back lacks the novelty and charm of Permission to Land, so The Darkness tries to outdo itself with sonic over-indulgence and hilarious, note-for-note mimicry of every 80’s metal cliché fathomable.
Roy Thomas Baker’s crystalline production certainly adds the operatic schmaltz reminiscent of his work with Queen, but The Darkness’ penchant for cheesy power metal anthems negates much of the sonic wizardry with too many half-baked ideas. Hawkins’ falsetto still sounds frighteningly odd and jarring when it explodes in each chorus, but it lacks the laugh-out-loud absurdity of anything on Permission to Land. And it’s not a case of the band suddenly trying to take itself seriously, either, as songs like “Knockers” and “Bald” easily attest.
The weird thing is, without Hawkin’s ridiculous vocals, most of these songs would have been sure-fire hits, if only they’d been released twenty years ago. In today’s market, however, it can attain little more than a well-executed-joke status- and one that’s fading fast. And I cannot imagine the band could pull any of this pomposity off live. The strings, the flute solos, the multi-tracked to oblivion vocals- it’s all just too much, especially if it's just for a laugh.