|1: One Way Ticket
Only 30 seconds in and this album has already made me laugh aloud. It reminds me of those terrible Pan Pipes Moods CDs they used to sell in T.J. Hughes. Just as I�m expecting Nigel Tufnel to come along and start going on about stone �enge the album�s shameful intro fades into what sounds like people snorting coke. I can�t say I�m surprised. Ah now we�re back on familiar grounds, ie: predictable guitar riffs with uninspired drumming and bass. On the positive side I was spared Justin�s overzealous falsetto whining for a full 1 minute and 24 seconds. He also admits that he�s talking rubbish and I have to say I agree.
It would seem this song is a thinly veiled excuse for a whinge about a probably fictitious drug habit. The chorus that tries and fails entirely to be catchy is a least mercifully short, but what follows it is little better. At the 3 minute mark the song descends into a horribly clich�d Eastern-esque section. I can picture them in the studio recording this one.
Justin Hawkins: �This song is about drugs, we must shoehorn an Eastern sounding bit in there somehow.�
Dan Hawkins: �Only if there�s a solo afterwards.�
After a painful reprise the song is, to my total relief, over. Only now do I understand the gravity of the task I have set myself.
Co-incidentally the first line of this song is almost exactly what I was thinking when I heard it, whilst eyeing up the bottle of Absolut on my desk. �Oh lord I�m so bored.� Me too Justin, me too. The opening two chord wonder of a verse is about as subtle as the lead singer�s wardrobe. �I want a girl, I want her in my sack� he thinks. �I want you in my sack� he sings. Who actually says �in my sack� anyway? Moving swiftly on I arrive at a chorus in which Justin screeches his approval of someone�s haircut. Over and over again. The guitar is so infuriatingly twangy it�s as if it�s competing with the vocals to see which can irritate me the most. At one minute into the song I�m treated to another nasal and mispronounced verse, this time about the singer�s sexual inadequacies. �The old magic�s still there� he assures me, but I�m not convinced he had it in the first place. Now he�s screaming about hair again. At the beginning of the last minute I brace myself for the obligatory overindulgent guitar solo, but was surprised to hear piano instead. It might not be particularly brilliant piano, but maybe I was wrong about the Darkness. Perhaps they can show restraint and not take every opportunity to masturbate their egos with their guitars. Alas, it would appear I was correct, they merely lowered my defences with cunning piano before unleashing their mind-numbing torrent of guitar cheese.
3: Is It Just Me?
This song conjures up images, to me at least, of fat cowboys eating chilli in the desert. Later they would line-dance. The first jumbled lyrical spasm opens by saying absence might make the heart grow fonder. I wonder if this is my cue to go and bury the album in the nearby graveyard. �Out of sight, out of mind� he adds, I think he agrees with me. As the unnervingly familiar sounding chorus begins, I ignore the urges to reach for a shovel, and I�m rewarded with this ponderous geographical metaphor: �You're up at John O� Groats, I'm down in Land's End.� Unless of course he means literally, in which case the relationship was doomed from the start. �I see your face when I close my eyes, and there ain�t no place like between your thighs� begins the next verse. I don�t see how he has any problems with women at all with poetic flamboyance like that, though perhaps he should go for someone a little closer to home. The verse ends with similar style and after another chorus the distortion is kicked up a notch and they let fly with a mediocre solo, which while seeming impressive feels cheap and leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, much like a supermarket brand microwave meal. No amount of string bends and fret tapping can make up for a lack of taste. I�m almost, almost, relieved to hear vocals again, and thankfully soon Justin decides �it feels like the end.�
4: Dinner Lady Arms
The intro, while still being cheesy, at least gave me hope that maybe this track would be better then what I�ve heard thus far. The melody seems a little more thought out then the previous cut and paste chord shenanigans. However this hope was dashed as the song proper kicks in with more disappointing �driving� rock and roll flatulence, albeit in a more downbeat guise. I�m not exactly sure what�s being said about dinner ladies in this song, and more specifically their arms. It had better not be anything derogatory; my mother was a dinner lady for many years. The song follows the same old verse chorus verse chorus routine, during which Justin drops the life changing revelation he �may not always have quite so much hair.� Honestly, if you�re going to try and make your songs sound so damn important they could at least have a little more lyrical depth then haircut critique. Still I do have to wonder whether he�d look more or less scary with short hair. It�s a tough call. To wrap up the song there�s the inevitable guitar seizure of a solo, replete with excessive fret tapping and corny harmonies, followed by a final wailing chorus.
5: Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
This song sees a change in the instrumentation and timbre, and while it�s very pretty and everything, the honest truth is it�s not hard to write a pretty song for acoustic guitar and a string section. Also it�s frustratingly similar to �Love is Only a Feeling� from their previous album and I loathe that song. You know the one, in the video they�re standing around on a cliff and when it�s on you�re always entertaining the delightful thought that maybe there�ll be a freak landslide or some such thing, thus bringing their ill-fated musical career to an early demise. Just me then? While I have to say this song is a lot more tasteful then anything else I�ve heard on this album the drumming is still as tedious and the lyrics are still on the same insultingly transparent �I�ve screwed up a relationship� theme. �I don�t know where I went wrong� he sobs. Many answers spring to mind, but I�m going to have to go with the first time he went and tried on a cat suit. I bet that seemed like a good idea at the time too. At just over 2 minutes into the song The Darkness completely fail to capitalise on the string section at their disposal, hiding them behind a dissatisfactory guitar solo when they clearly could have carried the part alone.
After a recap of the chorus, as if I�d forgotten it already, the song ends and I have reached the half way point.
6: Hazel Eyes
The latter half of the album begins with the guitarist showing off his new effect pedal, flailing around for 30 seconds before he gets embarrassed and gives up. An acoustic guitar then takes over briefly but this soon realises it�s not wanted either and shuffles off. Finally the actual song rears its head and, so far, is much more enjoyable then I had expected. It has a decidedly spooky mood and reminds me of a rather good Irish band called Melaton. I give it another 30 seconds before they screw it up. I should have known better, it didn�t even take them that long. Probably the most interesting section of the album so far soon gives way to a few bars of a bastardised Scottish march overlaid with Justin�s inimitable squealing. I can only assume what follows is the chorus, though it is little more then another two random chords, some bagpipes and what sounds like a yodeller being kicked in the nuts. If you listen to the song you�ll know what I mean, though I advise for your own mental wellbeing that you don�t. That�s more or less it for this song, just a repetition of the mismatched verse and chorus, with not one but two guitar solos. Perhaps these bouts of musical diarrhoea might have greater impact if they didn�t occur in every song. Also, as charming as the noise a deflating set of bagpipes makes is, I don�t think it�s how I�d chose to end a song.
Once more as this song begins I have not what you�d call high hopes, but hopes nevertheless I might be proved wrong and shown The Darkness can write music with soul and depth. I think it�s because the majority of what they play is so infuriatingly chirpy that as soon as a hint of melancholy comes along I almost forget that they could turn even the most sublime melody into a clich�d rock and roll disaster. The echoing mournful riff is soon joined by a bell in unison with the bass which seems to ever-so-slightly out of time. I can�t help the feeling this has been done purposefully to annoy me. The pedestrian chord pattern of the verse emerges and any manner of optimism I may have had for this song is instantly condemned. I�m starting to feel sorry for the bassist, apparently no one told him you can play notes other then the root of the chord. It must be terribly boring; I bet he regrets being poached from the Village People now. I can�t work out whether Justin�s saying he�s bulimic or �a bleeder� in the pre-chorus. I�m even completely not sure which would make more sense. Either way I�d rather deal with this sombre uncertainty then the screeching that comes hot on its heels. I genuinely have no idea what the chorus is about: every time I try to focus and understand the high pitched nonsense everything starts to go blurry. It must be a defence mechanism of some kind, much like the one that soon will help me block out the guitar solo that I�ve felt creeping up on me all the way through the song, waiting in the shadows ready to lunge out at me at just past 3 minutes in.
Now that the solo�s out of the way there�s little left to do except reiterate the song so far, then to end on the opening guitar line as if to taunt me with what could have been.
No messing around here; we�re right back on ZZ Top form from the word go with Justin pushing the boundaries of soul-destroying exuberant vocal excess. In the chorus a smug little strings line joins in as the singer pronounces �girlfriend I love you, I love you so much.� I�m sure she appreciates the sentiment, I�m less sure she appreciates being referred to as �girlfriend�. It seems a little impersonal to me. An abashed sounding brass section is added for the next verse, skirting around in the background as if they�re ashamed to be heard on a Darkness song. Come to think of it I can�t say I blame them. Another chorus serves as the precursor for the guitarist�s startling discovery of a new effect which he proceeds to abuse in the most gaudy solo of this entire album, if not the history of recorded music. I think I can feel my brains leaking out of my ears. One more chorus for the road and with a disturbing giggle this two and a half minute waste of studio time is done.
9: English Country Garden
My rattled nerves are soothed somewhat by a peaceful moment of ambiance which is utterly ruined just ten seconds later with the introduction of a frantic piano line. I can�t
help the feeling this is what Keane would sound like if someone slipped some speed into big-face�s drink. I�m sure in the first verse Justin is singing about his cock. In an English country garden. For his sake I hope he and his cock never show up in any country garden I visit, ever. The upbeat tempo of this distasteful little number makes it seem as if the band�s racing to get to the end of the song, which I applaud. I love vocoders. I want to make this absolutely clear. However when The Darkness uses one it makes me feel dirty all over. How they can take something I adore so much and debase it so completely I�ll never understand. All that�s left is the ubiquitous proficient yet decorum free guitar solo and one last stab at a chorus.
10: Blind Man
The final song is a piano strings and brass dominated affair and it has to be said the music is entirely more soulful then I would have expected. For a change Justin�s voice and its harmonies don�t seem completely out of place in the tune. Not to say every last syllable doesn�t still grate on my nerves, but at least the music calls for a little delicacy and an expansive vocal range. However to carry off the rest of the album with any semblance dignity he�d really need that special kind of husky blues rock voice that can only truly be achieved by smoking entirely too many cigarettes. It�s hardly surprising that the last song on the album is my favourite. Neither is it surprising my favourite song is the one that makes the least use of the actual members of the band. The absence of identical 4/4 drumming and high school garage band calibre bass lines was noted and well appreciated. The song plods on though some quite pleasing melodies until the end of the album, at which point I�m left wondering what happened to the suspiciously large quantity of vodka that�s disappeared from the bottle on my desk.