Permission To Land

REVIEW: The Darkness – “Love Is Only a Feeling” (CD and DVD singles)

THE DARKNESS – “Love Is Only a Feeling” (2004 Warner UK CD and DVD singles)

Collecting singles isn’t as easy as just buying the single anymore.  Which versions are out there, with what tracks?  The Darkness’ singles are usually interesting for the different bonus tracks and variations out there.  Their hit ballad “Love Is Only a Feeling” was available on CD, DVD and 7″ vinyl.  You only need the CD and DVD to get all the tracks, but there’s a catch:  the DVD is in PAL format (common in Europe), so you need a player that can decode it.

No problem.  LeBrain HQ has a collection of frankenstein multi-media tech that can convert the most popular physical formats into something easier to play!  It’s not a pretty setup but it gets the job done.  All the tracks from all the versions of “Love is Only a Feeling” can be compiled in a single file folder!

As far as ballads go, The Darkness didn’t wimp out with “Love is Only a Feeling”.  The Lizzy-like intro harmonies meld into an acoustic mandolin verse.  A bombastic band like the Darkness is at home with a bombastic ballad, but early Darkness didn’t use a lot of frills and extraneous instrumentation.  “Love is Only a Feeling” doesn’t go overboard, but sticks to pretty a traditional rock arrangement.  You can blast it out the car windows — no problem.

The first of the single B-sides is “Planning Permission”, an unpolished song that almost stands with the ones that did make it onto Permission to Land.  It could use a little more tightening up but the roots of a good song are there.  Next is the bizarre “Curse of the Tollund Man”.  It might even be considered educational.  The actual mummy of the Tollund Man was found buried in peat as described in the song.  It sounds like the Darkness were really trying to write a Queen B-side.  It’s amusing but all over the place.

The music video for “Love is Only a Feeling” is the main feature of the DVD single.  I’m a sucker for mountaintop videos.  “Love Is Only a Feeling” is almost as epic as the Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses clips that came before .  Then, they take it over the top by going under the ground, in a cave!  A behind-the-scenes video reveals safety ropes, helicopters and elevated platforms to heighten the drama.

The real reason to seek the DVD single is to acquire the final bonus track, “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” live at the Astoria.  The action-packed track features Dan Hawkins on all guitars, so Justin can jump around and do the splits.  Vintage live Darkness with the original lineup is scarce, as far as official releases go.  This live Darkness is full speed, filmed in the raw.  It doesn’t matter if you get it for watching or just listening.  It’s a great version.

If you’re fortunate enough to play DVDs from multiple regions, the singles are usually dirt cheap on Discogs.  This one even came with a poster!  DVD singles were a fad and never really caught on.  They can, however, patch some holes in your Darkness collection.

4/5 stars

 

 

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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.

REVIEW: Hot Leg – Red Light Fever (2009)

HOT LEG FRONT

HOT LEG – Red Light Fever (2009 Barbecue Rock Records)

It was a dark time for rock and roll.  The Darkness had split into two factions:  The Stone Gods, and Justin Hawkins’ Hot Leg.  The Gods were out of the gates with their album first in 2008, while Justin followed in 2009 with Red Light Fever.  Bizarrely, he credits himself as Justin “Dave” Hawkins in Hot Leg.

The Stone Gods made an excellent album, concentrating on rock and metal sounds.  Justin, on the other hand, has synthesized everything he does into one gestalt on Red Light Fever. There are still those cherished AC/DC-like moments that you may remember from Permission To Land (Hawkins even uses the lyric “permission to land” on one song) mixed with those operatic high vocals, taken to new levels of absurdity (“Chickens”). This is mixed with the polished Queen-like moments from the second Darkness album, One Way Ticket…, and the 80’s “keytar” sounds of his solo project British Whale. The result is, quite frankly, an album only Darkness fans will like.

I am a Darkness fan, and I do like it. The album kicks off with the aforementioned “Chickens”, which at first tricks you into thinking Hawkins has gone back to basics. Then the operatic chorus in full falsetto hits, and you realize that Hawkins is just as outrageous as ever.

“You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore”, the second track, reminds you that Hawkins is still one hell of a guitar player. Coming up right down the middle between Thin Lizzy and Brian May harmonies, it is Justin’s guitar work that keeps this band most anchored in rock.  The aptly titled “Trojan Guitar” is a cool workout, multi-faceted and complex.

By the time you get to the single, “Cocktails”, you will wonder just how Hawkins crammed so many notes into a word with just two syllables. Many will find this to be simply too much, like coffee with too much sweetener, or a cake with nothing but icing.  It’s a great song, with that Def Darkness vibe that I like so much, but the chorus is ridiculous!

“Gay in the 80s” is the most British Whale of the tracks, keytar up front and in your face, and Justin’s lyrics embracing the kitsch of that decade. Not a track for insecure rockers by any stretch.  Yet “Whichever Way You Wanna Give It” is the most reminiscent of early Darkness. It has that “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” vibe, with a chorus straight out of One Way Ticket…, and some solid guitar riffs with ample space between the power chords.

TAKE TAKE TAKEThe album ends a mere 35 minutes after it began, which some will find absolutely offensive after spending close to $30 (Canadian) on this import. However, if you wanted more, the band used to offer a vintage-Darkness sounding bonus track called “Take Take Take” on their website for free.  Unfortunately with the band now defunct, the song has been taken down.  Another free song, a bouncy upbeat number called “Heroes”, was available for a limited time only.

According to the inside notes, the album is to be filed under “Man-Rock”.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Darkness – “Get Your Hands Off My Woman…Again” (2004 mp3 single)

GYHOMWATHE DARKNESS – “Get Your Hands Off My Woman…Again” (2004 Atlantic mp3 single)

After the surprise hit Permission To Land (which was essentially just a released demo) The Darkness were determined to make a better sounding second album.  At first it was announced they were going to be working with one Mutt Lange; that didn’t pan out.  Up next was Roy Thomas Baker, of Queen fame.

Their first released collaboration was a re-recording of “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” re-titled “Get Your Hands Off My Woman…Again”.  It differs only slightly from the original.  Better sounding bass, better sounding drums, but almost identical otherwise.  There are only two moments were the song deviates from the original:  a 5 second piano break at 1:54, and a different, more abrupt ending.

This was released November 8 2004, for one month only, for 99p on the official Darkness site.   Since then I understand it’s been very difficult to find online.  I like when bands release stuff like this, even though for most people it’s fairly redundant.  A lot of bands test the waters by re-recording older material, Axl’s done that and so have others.  When they make it available for almost nothing for a limited time, sure, I’ll bite.  It’s a kind of immediate release that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

Not to mention that this is just one of the Darkness’ best songs, ever.  Gratuitous language, hot riffs, screeching high vocals, ripping solos, and hooks for miles.  I was sold on the original song on first listen.  As for this re-recorded update, I like the better quality sound, but I don’t like the piano break or the ending.  Great tune, great sonics thanks to RTB, but I’ll stick with the original!

3.5/5 stars

Since you can’t take a picture of a non-physical product, here’s the CD single that I burned!