REVIEW: The Darkness – Permission to Land (2003)

DARKNESS_0001THE DARKNESS – Permission to Land (2003 Atlantic)

There was a time in the early 1990’s when I ate up all the new bands coming out. I bought every indi tape I could get my hands on in search of the “next thing” in heavy rock. I tweaked early to bands such as I Mother Earth, Tonic, Sven Gali, and Big Wreck. I still have my old I Mother Earth and Sven Gali promo tapes that arrived in the mail!  Then suddenly in the 2000’s everything dried up and there weren’t any more new bands coming out that I liked.  I stopped buying music by new rock bands.

Until I got Permission To Land.

The Darkness are probably the last “new” band (well, they’re only on album #4 now) to come out of the woodwork that I truly love (love being a big word). I’m also pleased that in 2015 they are back once again with a new lineup, album and tour.  The story of my Darkness discovery and eventual love was recounted in Record Store Tales Part 80.

A lot of people thought this album was a novelty; a spoof of 80’s metal like Steel Panther are today. They are dead wrong. While The Darkness have ample humour in their music (as did Aerosmith mind you) they are deadly serious as musicians. The guitar work here is quite excellent. You can literally hear Thin Lizzy dripping from the strings, and it doesn’t get any more serious guitar-wise than that. Justin Hawkins takes his vocals to an almost absurd length, but listen carefully. Listen to how cleanly he hit those notes back then. There are very few rock singers who can hit notes like that so consistently and cleanly. Everybody says, “Ahh, but he’s copying Freddie Mercury.” Well first of all, a) no he’s not, Freddie was a very different kind of singer, and b) anybody who can hit notes as cleanly as Freddie is worthy of praise, not derision.

Yes, the leotards are a bit much, but what about the songs?

The album is slightly better sound-wise than demo quality.  I think I read somewhere that Permission to Land is little more than an independent recording released by a major. The drum sound for example is thuddy and annoying. However it doesn’t matter, because these adrenaline-filled rockers don’t need embellishment. The band themselves are all the embellishment needed. 10 songs: four singles, and several great album cuts make this record a winner.

“Get Your Hands Off My Woman” is more than just the four-letter-word is was known for, a great little metal song with volume and unstoppable pace. Better still is “Growing On Me” which also had a great video. “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” is just a great, fun song period.  I had to have it played at my wedding, where I did the air guitar on the dance floor. There are ballads too — “Love Is Only A Feeling” is the power ballad that Steven Tyler wishes he wrote for the latest Michael Bay turd.

The album cuts are stellar, with “Black Shuck” leading the pack, which masters that AC/DC chug-a-lug. I love “Givin’ Up” as well, with its point-blank lyrics about drugs. I used to think it was a sarcastic look at drugs until Hawkins suffered from his own addictions, but it certainly can be interpreted as an anti-drug song. That’s the great thing about music.

After the success of Permission to Land, the band would grow perhaps a bit too fast for the fans to keep up with.  That’s OK though. It could have happened to Kiss too, when they did Destroyer. If the second album wasn’t your cup of tea, that’s alright. There were plenty of singles from this album, with great B-sides to collect.  Not to mention that the splendid Hot Cakes reunion album should be sampled by the curious.

Don’t underestimate The Darkness. They were, and remain, an underrated band who provide fun, fast licks, and fuckin’ high lead vocals in their rock and roll!

4/5 stars

Fuck iTunes, buy the CD and check out the action-packed booklet.  Just like rock bands used to do it.

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44 comments

  1. I love this album, really do. My sons weren’t as impressed though. My elder son thought it was too 70s and my younger thought Justin Hawkins’s voice annoying. But this album radiates old fashioned in your face rock and metal and I agree with the band choices you compare things too. BTW, apart from the tracks you mention, I found the track “Dancing on a Friday Night” very entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, they could have made another excellent album out of those B-Sides!

        The production is what it is, it’s a raw basic album but the mastering (on my CD edition anyway) was mega loud. I think it had the copy protection too which didn’t help either. I remember having similar complaints about Purple’s Bananas album on CD.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bananas definitely had copy protection. Which used to work! But no problem ripping it to PC now…don’t know what happened with that technology.

          Yeah the CD is mastered loud for sure.

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        2. Yeah, I don’t know if it was just a coincidence but all those copy protected albums used to be too loud and clipped a lot. I’m not even usually all that sensitive to that kind of thing either. Bananas ripped fine for me too. I had problems with the Darkness album though, had to download that one.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Mine wasn’t copy protected. People used to say if you took a black magic marker, and drew around the inside of the CD with it, you could block the copy protection. Needless to say I never tried it.

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    1. “Yeah, I don’t know if it was just a coincidence but all those copy protected albums used to be too loud and clipped a lot.”

      Coincidence. The DRM stuff appeared around the same time as the loudness wars.

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  2. Ha..I still have this in cd! Good album but Hawkins gets to me sometimes with that falsetto. But overall a solid album.
    Great story as well Mike about buying everything in site. I was like that as well but by about 10 years earlier than you. 1991 into 92 ..dried up and we all know why!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always have a soft spot for this band…instead of today’s music where “first-week sales” are everything, I feel like this CD comes from a golden era where a band could still generate some quality word-of-mouth, move some units, benefit from some journalistic gushing, get the record company behind them a bit for a club tour (or two, depending if they could get some spins for a second single), but sadly, hiccup a bit when it came time for the “difficult follow-up”! Still a great disc and a cool band.

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  4. YES – like you Mike, I haven’t thrown the verb “love” around with a lot of “new” (post-2000) bands but I’d also use it here.
    My daughter & I love singing Friday night together – well reviewed sir!

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  5. Can’t stand Justin Hawkins’ voice. Annoying to say the least. But when The Darkness released this album, I really liked the fact that a band like them could sell shitloads of records in the middle of all the nu-metal and grunge odour that was surrounding us.
    Still, I can’t take them seriously, to me they’re a joke, like Steel Panther without the humor.
    Sorry, had to bring out the chainsaw for these guys.
    They played Sweden Rock Festival last week but I really couldn’t be bothered with them.
    The best thing with The Darkness was when Hawkins left and the rest of the band formed Stone Gods instead. Now that was a damn fine band.

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  6. When this band came out over here, all the magazines said was 80s 80s 80s.
    As you so rightly point out, everything they do is pretty 70s. Thin Lizzy bits, AC/DC bits, Queen bits, Kiss bits.

    Also, its actually a good album and everyone forgets that becuase of all the comedy and titties and costumes.

    When I went to see Chimaira live, the soundguy just played this album over the PA to warm the crowd up instead of lots of Metalcore songs like you’d expect.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Both yes and no. Sure, lots of 70’s. Lots of Queen. But also, shitloads of 80’s, not just in the looks. There are lots of 80’s arrangements in these songs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Side note: I remember seeing them support Metallica when touring this album and thinking “oh no, not that stupid novelty band” but when they were finished playing my mind was changed and I have the record in my collection still.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was with a girlfriend one night, listening to the Darkness while enjoying a drink. It hit me suddenly like an epiphany. “These guys are not joking around! Musically they’re deadly serious!”

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Really good write-up, Mike. If I wasn’t familiar with these guys I would have been tempted to check them out. Unfortunately I just don’t like them. I have a couple of friends who really liked this, but it was just too novelty for my liking.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this LP, they were such a refreshing blast when this came out, they were huge here too – I think people forget that a bit. I never saw them as a novelty act at all, they were intelligent guys who saw the inherent ridiculousness of hard rock and just had some fun with it. Always loved reading/hearing interviews with them too.

    I saw ’em twice and they were great, I’m toying with seeing them in December too.

    Really enjoyed your review of this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mike, you’ve done it again. Based on this review, I went and picked up the entire Darkness catalog from ‘One Way Ticket to Hell’ to ‘Last of Our Kind.’ I dug their debut, but wrote them off as a novelty band and didn’t bother with the rest of their efforts. Having listened to all of their subsequent albums I have to say I’m truly impressed. Catchy, fun, talented. All around, The Darkness is a great band.

    Liked by 1 person

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