From their very inception 12 years ago, The Darkness have been somewhat of a caricature, howbeit perhaps intentional. After all, when you start a glam-rock revival band at a time when the collective snickering over the genre has barely died out, you don’t expect it to be overly serious. And in fact, The Darkness’ initial rise to popularity rested on the fact that the band was more fun than serious, a curious blend of AC/DC, Queen, and Spinal Tap (and you could now perhaps add Tenacious D to the list).
Interestingly (if not intentionally), the band itself has followed the same path as other bands of their genre who actually did take themselves seriously—through success, pride, excess, substance abuse, fragmentation, and eventually, rebirth. After drifting for awhile, The Darkness has returned with Hot Cakes, an album that plants their feet once again in the fun, not-so-serious vibe that made them popular in the first place.
The album’s opening track and first single “Every Inch Of You” sets the tone with feigned narcissism, as frontman Justin Hawkins talking about once being “a loser,” “an Englishman with a very high voice,” and how everyone, er, “wants” him now because he’s in a rock band, and how he’s going to “work it.” Punctuated with characteristic screaming rock falsettos, this is stuff no one could get away with except in caricature. The vibe continues with “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” and “With a Woman,” carrying into the party-rock anthem, “Everybody Have a Good Time” and beyond. Typical of the genre, this album rarely takes a break from the heavy drums and guitars; in fact, there’s hardly a song on the record that could be considered a ballad, except perhaps “Forbidden Love”—and that’s a stretch.
Just to be clear, though, this is neither a satire band, nor a satire album. Where The Darkness differs from a band like Spinal Tap is that in another time, this band really could be a more serious rock band. What makes Hot Cakes work as a record in 2012 is that it is self-aware—it takes us on a journey without taking itself too seriously. The Darkness have apparently found themselves again, making fun music with a subtle, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
While Hot Cakes is hitting shelves and online stores today in the states, The Darkness is currently on tour in Europe with Lady Gaga (is it just me, or is that a perfect fit?). Whether the album will sell like—well, you know—remains to be seen, but it certainly deserves kudos as a comeback album.