Review: The Darkness

by jeff mckibben


My first exposure to The Darkness was over the holidays on the ride back from the bars after a long alcohol soaked night that ended with my playing air guitar in my parent’s snow-covered Michigan driveway at four in the morning to a song that I’d never before heard (and subsequently waking up my entire family with all the “Fuck Yeah!’s” from my friends as they dropped me off): this is exactly the appeal of The Darkness; they evoke a heavy 80’s hair-metal rock sound that will illicit the infantile behavior of that era. The Darkness straddle a dangerous line as musicians: pretension vs. musical merit. Upon first listen (sober or otherwise), The Darkness are fucking hilarious. But their music isn’t dripping with self-indulged comedy like geek-rockers Bare Naked Ladies and They Might Be Giants (different sounds, of course, but they all are comical for comedy’s sake). So then, does The Darkness take themselves seriously? One could look at their image – that of leopard print chest-less leotards, big hair, and other such inanities of Poison, Motley Crue, et al. – and draw the conclusion that no, they don’t, surely not. The Darkness are, in fact, sonically proficient, and if you cut through that 80’s image and get to the heart of The Darkness sound, you’ll clearly see not only are they, A: marketing geniuses but, B: excellent musicians. But then you’ll listen to the absurd lyrics, or simply look at the absurd names of their tracks, with such titles as “Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman” or “Love On The Rocks With No Ice,” and you’ll find yourself thinking that this could be the dumbest shit you’ve ever heard. And perhaps it is. The Darkness acknowledge that they maybe surface rock, but they do so with such a genuine charm that strips away all the pretense generally found in pop/rock. However their sound is problematic, it may be generational because it evokes the nostalgia of the 80’s and as such it’s perhaps short-sidely charismatic for only those that can recall the greatness of the what-the-fuck-were-we-thinking stylings of 80’s rock. But The Darkness does indeed rock. Listen to them again, please, for your sake, regardless of your opinion of 80’s hair-metal. They rock in all the false ways that rock music should and does rock, only The Darkness succeed in a fashion that is blistering with magnetism and simplistic appeal, bereft of idyllic rock fortune and glory but base with the falsetto of idyll rock. Though The Darkness may be overly criticized for their silliness, it’s used to promote the lost pageantry of Big Guitar rock antics. The Darkness’ appeal is more than merely entertainment value, if it were only entertainment we’d quickly get bored and concluded that this is, indeed, the dumbest shit we’ve ever heard. Music is meant to mean something more, to make some connection. And The Darkness succeeds in making that connection, which must mean there is some hidden emotion inside or underneath their absurd image, those ridiculous lyrics. But perhaps the great appeal behind The Darkness is that they successfully mix a mockery of, rather than homage to, 80’s sound with the sincerity of musical craft – combing comedy with pretentiousness, once thought to be mutually exclusive.