During their five years apart in the late noughties, The Darkness’ stellar early success seemed increasingly like some sort of insane cheese-dream. Their gloriously unembarrassable approach to rock’n’roll, with its catsuits, castrato vocals and old AC/DC riffs, had been packed away alongside trucker caps and June Sarpong in a drawer marked: ‘2003: Do Not Open’.
<!–[if gte mso 9]>
By the time of their inevitable reunion, the world at large truly could not have cared less. It didn’t help that the record with which they announced their return was a lesson in how not to make a comeback album – not so much Hot Cakes as Lukewarm Buns. After a baffling, if doubtless fun, tour supporting Lady Gaga, you could have forgiven them if they’d slinked back to Lowestoft to see out their days manning the change booths in the Stardust Amusement Arcade.
Thankfully, The Darkness are made of sterner stuff. Even better, they’ve only gone and made their finest album since Permission To Land gleefully dropped its leather strides in the sixth-form common-room that was pop charts.
If you’ve heard lead-off Barbarian, you’ll have a sense of exactly how The Darkness have reconnected with what made them so much fun first time around. A heroically daft Viking-themed pocket-epic, it has the brass balls to forsake anything approaching a traditional chorus in favour of Justin Hawkins wailing ‘Aah-aaah-aaaaah-aah’ at the top of his lungs. It’s more Noggin The Nog than Games Of Thrones, and all the more brilliant for it.
In some respects, Barbarian is a red herring. The rest of the album suggests they’ve relocated their ability to write an actual killer chorus. There are at least half-a-dozen of the buggers here, not least first single proper Open Fire and the Thin Lizzy-fronted-by-Mickey Mouse title track. Even better is the genuinely batshit-crazy Mighty Wings, which attempts to splice together Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge and Metallica’s Sad But True while a man who sounds like he’s having a car door repeatedly slammed on his gonads yelps over the top.
So sky-high is their confidence that they even let bassist Frankie Poullain have a go at singing on lighters-aloft closing ballad Conquerers. Amazingly, it’s one of the best things here.
The Darkness’ return to form is a welcome surprise in these apocalyptically drab times. And even if the world turns its face away from them, at least they’re going to go down screeching./o:p