I can think of at least one of my mates that would fervently disagree, given that he hates the band with a passion, but I am absolutely convinced of the veracity of the statement I am about to make: I believe The Darkness saved rock n roll.
Back in 2003, the rock world was a terrible morass of nu-metal and boring nonsense. And along they came, with “Permission To Land” and offered a glitter-cannon of hope in the horrible greyness of it all.
Now, it could be argued that “…..Land” hasn’t aged all that well, that it was a collection of singles and not a lot else. That’s true to an extent, but it made it seem possible for rock n roll to be pompous again.
16 years later, things have reached the point you always imagined they would. The boys have made a rock opera. To wit, they explain: “Easter Is Cancelled is the band’s most exciting and diverse record to date, a mini-rock opera examining the role of the musician in the barbarous culture of the world today. At the heart of the tale is love, loss and heartbreak, where redemption is ultimately found in the brotherhood of band friendship and the power of the guitar.”
There is a certain irony in the intro to this review and the first song. Because after some acoustic guitar (by way, I suppose of an overture?) they decide that “Rock N Roll Deserves To Die”. After 1 minute and 43 seconds of this thing, Justin Hawkins lets out a scream that will have my aforementioned mate running for any hill he can find to be honest.
But for all that, the guitar work here is absolutely epic and Dan Hawkins excels himself throughout. There is a prog sort of feel to many of these. “How Can I Love Your Love” and so on, it feels like the 70s. It is a departure from the norm, and yet, at the same time it isn’t. It contains all the elements that you either loved or loathed, it just turns them up to 11, you know?
“Live Till I Die” has apparently been knocking around since the early days. A mid-paced rocker, it is autobiographical. Literally, in this case, given the date of birth given in the lyrics is actually Justin’s, it is an example of clever songwriting of the type they don’t often get credit for, as is “Heart Explodes”, a ballad, but one that absolutely gloriously sends up ballads: “I can’t believe it’s over, I can’t believe I am free” offers Hawkins, “to sleep with anybody who wants to sleep with me…..” and if its not going to be on many greetings cards, then at least it’s a cut above the norm.
“Deck Chair” is the sort of palate cleanser here, folky, and downright odd, it is a journey into the second part. The title track – and if you have been waiting for the name then, here it is – is Queen-esque. Brian May guitar lines abound here, lets be honest.
“Heavy Metal Lover” is quirkily superb. Referencing Cannibal Corpse lyrics over a song that sounds like ELO is incongruous, but somehow in keeping, while “In Another Life” even adds a touch of country to things, before building to a crescendo, and if you had to pick the best thing here, you probably can’t go further than “Choke On It.” You will hate this if you don’t “get” it, and you won’t “get” it if you don’t get The Darkness. The worst/best – delete as appropriate rhymes you have ever heard (“smoother” should not rhyme with “hors d’oeuvres” I swear it does here, and the music goes from post punk to Chuck Berry and the world’s worst Liam Gallagher impression. No one would attempt this. No one. The Darkness do.
And why? Well the answer is the last song. They are the guitar men. It’s what they do. Like a less shit Manowar they’ve saved rock n roll again. Sorted. And in less than 45 minutes? That’s an opera to get on board with, innit?
So all of that diverse and exciting stuff? It’s all true. But forget it to be fair, because “Easter Is Cancelled” sounds like The Darkness.
Only, I am prepared to concede one point. It sounds like The Darkness always should have sounded and it is their best ever record.