20 years on, Permission To Land... Again recalls the swaggering confidence of a band about to claim their place at pop’s top table

A 20th anniversary reissue of The Darkness's much-loved debut album Permission To Land, including unreleased tracks

The Darkness: Permission To Land Again cover art
(Image: © Rhino)

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It’s hard to imagine now, with The Darkness long-since clasped to the nation’s collective bosom, that anyone could forget frontman Justin Hawkins’s appearance as Chameleon on The Masked Singer. But back in 2003 there was still a degree of critical scepticism about a band whose combination of hard-rock riffs and falsetto vocals seemed clearly tongue-in-cheek.

This typically OTT reissue (formats include five vinyl and four CD/DVD variants) of their 2003 debut album is a timely reminder of how necessary they were, not least as a light-hearted counterpoint to the po-faced Detroit garage scene prevalent at the time. The stats speak for themselves: a global hit, Permission To Land scooped up three Brit awards and an Ivor Novello, went five times platinum, and sold 1.5 million copies in the UK alone.

Twenty years on, the album has attained a classic feel, with gonzo ear worms Growing On Me, I Believe In A Thing Called Love and Love Is Only A Feeling ripping from the speakers like jukebox perennials worthy of selection alongside Thin Lizzy and AC/DC

And while the debt to past greats sometimes seems a little too obvious – for example the riff to Get Your Hands Off My Woman is a complete lift of Urge Overkill’s Sister Havana – sheer force of personality ensures that they never feel second-hand, the contrast between Hawkins’s histrionic delivery and self- effacing lyrics offering a brilliant deconstruction of the macho-metal stereotype, not least on lovelorn schooldays reminiscence Friday Night, in which he warbles: ‘God the way she moves me, to write bad poetry.’

Fans of the original will gorge on this reissue’s extras, which include B-sides, and choice cuts from incendiary live shows from the period at London’s Astoria, Knebworth (both 2003) and Wembley Arena (2004), the latter including
a raucous version of Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End). But it’s the six previously unreleased demos which are the most intriguing. A paint-stripping Black Shuck finds Hawkins at his larynx-shredding best, while Love On The Rocks With No Ice exudes the swaggering confidence of a band about to claim their place at pop’s top table. 

Proof that their creative juices were in full flow comes with scorching versions of Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us and Live Til I Die – eventually released to promote 2012’s Hot Cakes and 2019’s Easter Is Cancelled.

Permission granted. Again.

Paul Moody is a writer whose work has appeared in the Classic Rock, NME, Time Out, Uncut, Arena and the Guardian. He is the co-author of The Search for the Perfect Pub and The Rough Pub Guide.