Every The Darkness album ranked from worst to best

The original line up of The Darkness
(Image credit: Tim Roney/Getty Images))

Give us a ‘D’! Give us an ‘Arkness Albums Ranked From Worst To Best’! No? Worth a try. Lowestoft’s finest are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their barnstorming debut album Permission To Land, so what better time to examine the band’s back catalogue? The Darkness have plied their inimitable, quintessentially British brand of rollicking, double entendre-heavy hard rock across three decades, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. From the sublime to the ridiculous, here are The Darkness’ seven studio albums ranked from worst to best. Regard!

Metal Hammer line break

7. Hot Cakes (2012)

The Darkness have never made a crap album, but Hot Cakes was a distinctly lukewarm re-entry after a six-year hiatus. Even more so when you recall how brilliant their initial comeback gigs were. She Just A Girl, Eddie is throwaway at best, and Everybody Have A Good Time sounds like AC/DC on morphine. Still, Concrete is a more than serviceable rocker, and the ludicrous cover of Street Spirit (Fade Out) is unmissable – if mainly for triggering Radiohead acolytes across the globe. Can someone check on Thom Yorke?

6. Last Of Our Kind (2015)

By the mid-2010s, the band’s comeback had morphed into a proper second act. Last Of Our Kind isn’t the quartet’s most potent work, but its finest fruits have become setlist staples. Chiefly Open Fire and Barbarian. The latter is perhaps history’s only tribute to legendary Norseman Ragnar Lothbrok, packed with white-hot riffs and falsetto vocals. Speaking of unruly Norsemen, Mighty Wings sounds like the theme to Red Dwarf with added Viking invasion, thanks to its eerie synths and violent chugs. Conversely, Hammer & Tongs doesn’t really go anywhere, and Sarah O’Sarah is a flaccid ode to Thin Lizzy. A mixed bag.

5. Motorheart (2021)

While their contemporaries were mostly writing mopey pandemic records, The Darkness thankfully just carried on being The Darkness. Motorheart takes its name from the title track, which is naturally about sex with androids: “You need a Phillips screwdriver to get her undressed,” Justin Hawkins advises. This was their third consecutive album with the same, well-oiled line-up, and it showed. Jussys Girl jumps between crunchy riffs and a chorus hook to die for. The wonderfully daft Eastbound finds the brothers hastily planning an East Anglian pub crawl during its middle 8. A more than decent effort from a band celebrating 20 years in the game.

4. Pinewood Smile (2017)

For a band indebted so heavily to Queen, it’s no coincidence that the arrival of Rufus Tiger Taylor (fellow drummer and son of Queen’s Roger Taylor) on Pinewood Smile kick-started the richest form of the band’s career. With riff-soaked songs about Caribbean pirates, Japanese tourism and the Southern railway operator, the Hawkins brothers were clearly still keen to tackle the big issues on album five. Buccaneers Of Hispaniola ignites with Taylor’s feisty flair. Japanese Prisoner Of Love bangs like nothing else in the Darkness catalogue. “And we're never gonna stop shitting out solid gold,” Hawkins declares on cocksure stomper Solid Gold. He’s yet to be proven wrong.

3. One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back (2005)

It’s often maligned and misunderstood, but after the absurd successes of Permission To Land, One Way Ticket To Hell… is really the only album The Darkness could have made. That meant cranking up the pomp, the buffoonery and the dynamic ambition – and hiring famed Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker to capture the lot. The band’s sheer omnipresence had become a problem, and Justin Hawkins’ spiralling drug habit wasn’t helping. Not that it stopped them making light of it on perky lead single One Way Ticket – the record literally begins with snorting sounds. “Stick it up your fucking nose!” Hawkins cries, before a wacky sitar solo flies in. Hazel Eyes is an irresistible hard-rock banger (complete with bagpipes), and English Country Garden is one of their most underrated songs ever – it sounds like Meat Loaf rocking a fancy tearoom on helium.

2. Easter Is Cancelled (2019)

Flamboyant? Yes. Preposterous? Yes. Prophetic? Also yes, apparently. This dazzling addition to the Darkness canon came just months before Easter was actually cancelled – nice one, Covid. It’s the runner-up here, but Easter Is Cancelled is by far the band’s most diverse work. They go full prog on lead single (and withering state of the genre address) Rock And Roll Deserves To Die – its folky refrains repeatedly caved in by hammerhead guitars. No one else could deliver a ditty like Deck Chair with such desperate longing. “The seat I relied on belongs to Poseidon, she is Neptune’s, not mine,” Hawkins wails, lamenting the untimely demise of a sun lounger. Meanwhile, the sumptuous In Another Life is arguably the best Darkness power ballad of them all. In terms of sheer sonics, the band had never sounded better.

1. Permission To Land (2003)

In 2003, there was absolutely nothing to suggest that guitar-worshipping, catsuit-wearing glam rock could permeate the mainstream, but The Darkness’ debut album saw them all but wipe their collective arse with the memo.

A genre for the dreamers and the underdogs, this stuff just isn’t supposed to cross over. Voted the Greatest Song of the Century by Classic Rock readers in 2020, I Believe In A Thing Called Love has rightly cemented itself in rock’s perennial furniture – and we’re all still struggling to nail those rapid chorus lyrics after a few bevvies. The anthemic Growing On Me isn’t far behind either. With its heavily distorted bluster and bite, Black Shuck is one of the all-time great album openers. Permission To Land’s finest compliment is that it plays more like a greatest hits than the startling introduction of an unknown quantity.

It speaks volumes that Justin Hawkins has said that winning three BRIT Awards – and closing the show in a blaze of pyrotechnics – on the back of Permission To Land is his proudest moment. Save for climate breakdown or nuclear Armageddon, we’ll still be celebrating these songs in 2103.

Chris Lord

Copywriter, music journalist and drummer. Once fist bumped James Hetfield. Words for The Guardian, Gear4Music, Metro, Exposed Mag.