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The Darkness: Thy Name Is Release

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These four men have been given over to the hounds on the perception that they make up nothing more than a joke band, something in the way of a Weird-Al-Yankovic-sings-Thin Lizzy-doing-Queen.

 

Am I wrong, or are people scared to have a good time? Everyone wants to be sophisticated and acting their age for hours and lives on end. That’s my problem with the twenty-first century. Without a purpose and a bending money clip, you’re nothing. Let your balls hang low and your boobs hang out, I say. There should be no judging in the name of release. Do you have to have a logical reason for sliding headfirst down three flights of stairs for a free slice of pizza? Don’t reckon you do. Can’t anything simply be for the spontaneity that “the hell of it” used to bring? Is it too much to ask that such behavior not be cedar-chested past the age of 23? My answer, for all of us, is: No, it is not too much to ask.

Begrudge me, if you will, for wanting all rock stars to feel that, should the wind blow the right way, they could all make a go of slipping into a Valentine-ishly pink catsuit with a semicircular belly cutout that reveals most of the pectorals, all of the chest hair, and a flaming orange tattoo that budges right down into the nether regions where all of the unspoken business culminates and quakes. Does it seem ridiculous to respect someone who was once quoted as saying that his particular band was an “improvement on sliced bread?” If you said “yes,” then chances are you spend too many hours trying to teach yourself “With Arms Wide Open” on your pathetic acoustic guitar and you’ve never once run a yellow light. What’s wrong with you? Whatever it is, it’s more than could ever be fixed with an aspirin and a brisk pat on the ass.

The Darkness are a little like that feeling you would get if someone drove a brand new car direct from the assembly line, handed you a nice, fire-tempered Louisville Slugger, and said, “Hey, how would you like to beat the shit out of this car for me?” Because, really, what warm-blooded person wouldn’t be up for doing something so blatantly destructive if no one got hurt and there were no repercussions? These four men have been given over to the hounds on the perception that they make up nothing more than a joke band, something in the way of a Weird-Al-Yankovic-sings-Thin Lizzy-doing-Queen.

“ It’s about time for rock ’n’ roll to be fun again. The last few years, I rarely went to gigs,” Darkness guitarist Dan Hawkins said. “Some of these bands take themselves so fucking seriously these days.”

The band’s recent, 19-date spring tour of the United States was completely sold out, but I wonder how much of that is comes from actual appreciation and how much from the desire to witness the funny little man (lead singer Justin Hawkins, of the widow’s peaks and the Jewel-straight grin) with the voice that can sky past the timber tops and the saggy, shiny get-ups. Their debut album, Permission to Land, with songs as amusingly catchy as anything an American band’s done in decades (maybe longer, and don’t give me any Enema of the State arguments), has reached quadruple platinum (1,200,000 copies) status in the U.K. We seem to still be testing the waters, taking only 500,000 records from the shelves (U.S. platinum status is a million sold). For whatever reason, much of the this country is happier blowing their bills on Usher and Evanescence, one an annoying pretty boy and the other one of the saddest bunch of mopes who probably get depressed when tickled.

“We had to fight fucking hard to get where we are now. We just kept plugging away at it. We were playing to 20 people in pubs a year ago,” Hawkins said. “We’re not a statement or a reaction. We’re just doing our thing.”

Before heading to Japan and back to the United States, the band was writing material for their sophomore album—which Hawkins vows will be “the best second record ever”—holed up in a country retreat in England.

“It’s a 16th century estate. We’re just trying to recapture the feeling of the first record,” said mysterious, handlebar-mustachioed bassist Frankie Poullain. “So far, it’s going well. But we keep banging our heads on the ceiling. Things weren’t meant for tall people.”

Poullain said that they’re going after some outrageous ideas to try to take rock forward even further than they already have. They’ve got Outkast’s blessing.

“Andre 3000 came up to me at the MTV Europe Awards and said, ‘Friday Night,’ that kills me. That’s the greatest song on the record,’” Poullain said. “We met the Black Eyed Peas that night, also. I think we have more in common with [Outkast and BEP] than we do with bands like Jet. And we get along better with them. They look back at the past and add some color to it. We don’t think it’s sacred. Rock history tells us you can be playful with it.”

The life Poullain’s lived is described by Hawkins as a “web of deceit,” and the man with affinities for power napping and flowing, leopard-printed scarves is proud of the fact that he’s never paid taxes in his life.

Before the band took off, “I’d been struggling, doing all kinds of dingy jobs,” he said. “My life’s kind of like Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky.”

It’s gotten considerably better. The difficulties now are in balancing the hours and the demands. And that’s about all. The exiled Scot said that the success that a couple hit songs about love in twisted varieties has given the four chums more good times than hassle.

“It’s probably harder for Justin, walking into a pub and having a lot of twats come up to him. To be honest, there’s a lot more you can do than you can’t do when you get to this point,” Poullain said. “It opens up a lot of freedom.”

Freedom to live and black shuck the pinstripes and stuffy attitudes. Have a good time? Yes, Darkness, I think I shall. Hand me the bat and guard your eyes.

The Darkness play the Pageant June 12, 2004.
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