With 2003’s Permission To Land debut album, The Darkness put star-jumping, crotch-thrusting rock’n’roll back in the British charts. Sixteen years later, on new album Easter Is Cancelled the Lowestoft band seem lukewarm on their legacy.
“Rock’n’roll is so uniform now,” reckons bassist Frankie Poullain. “Everybody dresses the same, looks the same, sounds the same. It’s pathetic. It deserves to die. Let’s kill the cliché. Let’s break the crucifix. That’s partly what the album is about.”
Sixth album Easter Is Cancelled puts its money where its mouth is, right from the thrilling flashpoint when a dirty Les Paul riff punctures the red-herring folksy opener Rock And Roll Deserves To Die.
Granted, there’s nothing on the album that’s quite as stadium-ready as I Believe In A Thing Called Love, but every track here is whip-smart and shout-it-out hooky. And although the musical envelope is rarely shunted with both hands, the playful writing dips, dives and never does quite what you expect.
How Can I Lose Your Love is the must-hear, its heavy verses fused to a synth squiggle and a puppy-love chorus so sweet that you won’t snigger. Live ’Til I Die is a killer story-song in which Justin Hawkins reflects on bullied school days and life-coaches the next generation of rock pariahs.
The title track manages to be both traditional and questing, with a cracking caveman riff from the Young brothers’ playbook elevated by musings on man’s moral fall. The mould is broken entirely by Deck Chair (a curio on which Hawkins’s mannered croon is carried by synths and Albatross guitars), and Heavy Metal Lover, which fuses a soufflé-light pop-rock chorus, Big Four thrash riffs, and vocal stylings that flit from Marilyn Manson to the B-52s’ Fred Schneider.
Elsewhere, Choke On It opens with the screech of a dial-up modem, then chugs like the 60s Batman theme as Hawkins delivers spiteful couplets in a cod Gallagher sneer (‘How’s a man supposed to shine, when all you do is fookin’ whine?’).
Finally, We Are The Guitar Men nails The Darkness’s colours to the genre’s mast (‘We are the guitar men, long live rock’n’roll’), as Hawkins flays his axe on a finger-tap outro that Eddie Van Halen’s lawyers will hopefully never hear.
If you hate The Darkness, move along. But for those who remain strangely tickled by their frivolous, heartfelt one-offmanship, every track here will prick up your ears. Easter might be cancelled, but for rock fans Christmas has come early.