The Darkness One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back

In 2003, the Darkness were both a breath of fresh air for some and a nagging, unwelcome re-enactment of the past for others. Since then, the band have lost their bassist, verbally trashed most bands on the planet and taken their love for Freddie Mercury a little too far on this second record. The title track kicks off with a hilarious surprise and transforms into a fine piece of melodic arena rock that is accentuated by some Asian influences. From there, Justin Hawkins unleashes his falsetto fury on "Knockers” and doesn’t stop. The band even hit their stride with their finest moments to date: the gloriously schmaltzy ballad "Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time” and its radical counterpart "Hazel Eyes,” which unabashedly mixes bagpipes, symphonic riffing and Hawkins’ strikingly high register. The Darkness have proven they aren’t afraid to drain their blatant influences (Queen, Sparks and Slade) dry and push their shtick further into the ridiculous. As much as you might want to hate this album, it’s not so easy after a few listens, and by that point you’ll be cursing Hawkins for being so damn good at his job. (Atlantic)