One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back
There is an element of The Darkness' fanbase which proclaims the band as the all conquering saviours of rock n roll. Then there is the opposing side, which thinks the band is nothing but an over hyped one-trick pony.|
The truth lies somewhere in between. No one can argue the fact that the band are putting melodic rock n roll back into the charts, but little flow on effect for other artists can be expected due to the gimmicky nature of their style.
That gimmick – the falsetto vocals of frontman Justin Hawkins – has seen them sell a truck load of records in the UK and even achieve success in the difficult to penetrate US market.
But the vocal controversy alone has not sold the band to the masses. That aspect merely opened doors for them in attracting media attention and the support of a record label. At the heart of the matter, the band writes very catchy rock songs.
But they do tend to overplay the importance of the vocal gimmick, making this album impossible to appreciate for those that just can't get past Justin Hawkins' unique style.
The breakthrough debut Permission To Land was ok – it contained a few great songs, a few which were overrun with falsetto vocals and a few fillers.
This is an important album for the band as they have to prove to everyone they are capable of living up to the hype a second time around.
Teaming up with legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker was the band's best move. I think the combination of some strong material and a slight change in approach has made this a better and more enjoyable album. It follows the formula of the debut, but impresses more so as I for one have had a lot of time to live with that album and better understand the band.
Baker is best known for his work with Queen and as we all know, Freddy Mercury was the king of camp over the top vocals, although it certainly wasn't his only trick. Freddy had it all.
But in this case, Baker has helped Justin Hawkins to better focus his talents and has helped add extra flair to the songs. He goes more over the top than ever, but in most cases when it is needed rather than all the time.
And in some parts, he actually tones down the falsetto to deliver a great regular vocal.
While the debut album played up to an AC/DC style of riffing hard rock, One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back cashes in on Roy Thomas Baker's experience with Queen.
There are so many Queen-isms within this album which will no doubt fire up debate further. Which ever side of the fence you are on - not too many British rock bands in this day and age get a worldwide simultaneous CD release.
Track By Track:
In typical piss-taking fashion the grand intro of the album features a short panpipe solo, before getting underway with the lead single One Way Ticket. You couldn't ask for much more from a lead single. Solid riff – big chorus – those vocals!
Knockers is one of the examples of Justin reigning in his voice for the benefit of the song. The chorus vocal is totally over the top and features a fully fledged wail, but the verse is subtle and melodic – to great effect.
Is It Just Me mirrors the style of Growing On Me from the debut – a big swaggering rocker with a tight groove and one of those over the top falsetto filled choruses. It's all good fun and the guitar soloing has a certain Brian May flair.
Dinner Lady Arms is another example of restraint and is possibly the band's most melodic track to date. I think I actually prefer the verse, which sees Justin singing quite soulfully, over the more dramatic chorus but in any regard, the song should rate highly with fans.
Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time is the first of two big ballads and is the first where the famous Roy Thomas Baker / Queen orchestration comes into play.
Flamboyant vocals throughout, the song features lush orchestral moments and should be the next single from the album. Another hit I have no doubt. Hazel Eyes probably represents everything that some people hate about this band. Subtlety be dammed! Add over the top vocals, bagpipes, guitar solos and marching drums please sir! Funny…catchy, but not a song that can be played all the time.
Bald is one of the band's darker and more aggressive songs to date and again plays down the vocals (just a little). It makes a nice balancing track between two quite insane tracks.
Girlfriend on the other hand – is totally the opposite, with those vocals all over the track, not to mention horns and a very pop style.
This is where the album starts to loose me – just as happened with the debut, as there is only so much over the top falsetto vocalling one can take.
English Country Garden continues this trend, but of interest is the massive Queen styled harmony vocals and musical arrangement the track has.
The album closes with the second big ballad. Blind Man is even more over the top than the first ballad and once again features a huge Queen styled vocal harmony. It's musically interesting – even if thoroughly ripped off from Queen, but is more over the top for the sake of it than actually being a heartfelt ballad and has a lackluster ending.
The band delivers a strong sequel to the debut, but don't really take on the challenges of moving out of the pigeon hole they have been painted into. Those that loved the debut will love this and those that didn't get the band first time around still won't get them now.
I suspect the debut will continue with neither side giving any ground!
I must add that any album that clocks in at 35 minutes walks a very fine line. Of the tracks featured, should 1 or 2 be fillers for any reason to a particular listener, which leaves a mere 29 or so minutes of music, which is very hard to pass off as value for money.
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