The Darkness - One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 29 November 2005

artist: The Darkness

One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back
format: 16-bit stereo CD
label: Atlantic Records
release year: 2005
performance: 8
sound: 7
reviewer: Dan Macintosh

The Darkness is a relatively new band – One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back is their second release – but it often sounds like a much older group, say, Queen. Such a specific comparison should come as no great surprise, because Roy Thomas Baker manned this disc, and he produced a few Queen albums back in the day. It’s a work that hearkens back to Queen musically, because each track is packed with excessive instrumentation, ranging from pan flute to bagpipes. Vocally, the “Mercury” level is also significantly high, due to lead singer Justin Hawkins’ histrionic performance, as well as in the way backing vocals are harmonically layered, especially during “Blind Man.”

This British band also shares a strong taste for hedonism. Take the not-so-subtly-titled “Knockers.” Sample lyric: “You’re devilish and dirty/They say you’re pushing 30/Well, pushing 30 stone.” (For our non-U.K. readers, a stone is 14 pounds. Do the math, and weep.) Such a track would fit right into any mix tape that also included “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Tie Your Mother Down.” Lust, a common lyrical theme here, is also touched upon in “English Country Gardens” and “Dinner Lady Arms.”

Nevertheless, there are still a few brief moments when these boys aren’t thinking exclusively about sex. Sometimes they think about drugs. The disc opens with “One Way Ticket,” a warning against the excesses of drug abuse, which incorporates the sound effect of someone sniffing cocaine.

And sometimes they think about rock and roll. “Bald” might be an even scarier subject for hard-rocking musicians, as it contemplates, for them, a fate worse than death.

The production on this CD is simply sparkling. There’s so much going on, with so many different elements vying for attention in its mixes, it must have taken a lot of work just to get them to all play together nicely. Roy Thomas Baker was shooting for nothing short of grandiose here and he hit that mark every time.

When Queen was flying in the face of punk’s simplicity back in the ‘70s, Freddie Mercury and his band mates sure were over-the-top. But whenever the Darkness is doing its best Queen impression here, this retro behavior somehow provides a small measure of nostalgic glee. Much like a rich, chocolaty dessert, the Darkness is probably only appetizing in small dosages. Warning: an overloaded box set by this outfit might just cause untreatable sugar rush, and death. But this singular release is a tasty treat, especially when set against so much of the bland and flavorless music out there these days. Go ahead and take this one-way ticket to Buckingham Palace. It’s well worth the trip.

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