The Darkness - Hot Cakes - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Darkness - Hot Cakes

by James Bray Rating:7 Release Date:2012-08-20

Despite big success in the mid-00s, the public always had an ambivalent relationship with The Darkness; punters didn't know whether to fully embrace the group's pastiche of 70s/80s rock or just to pogo along ironically to their big hits. Following their rise to fame, even the band themselves didn't seem to know whether to take their music seriously or not.

The Darkness always specialised in combining the everyday or the colloquial with the bombast and posturing of peacock-rock, but by their second album One Way Ticket to Hell, that joke just wasn't funny anymore and the hits dired up. As a result of the group's lack of direction and identity, they became myred in the trappings of rock stardom. By 2006 frontman Justin Hawkins was suffering from drug addictions and an eating disorder which signalled the demise of the band and a series of obscure side projects.

Hot Cakes reunites the band's original lineup for a third record. It's a strangely sentimental rock album; it sounds like a more mature band making a real shot of their career and getting to grips with their post-ironic style. On the opener 'Every Inch of You', Hawkins declares "I'm in a band with my brother and my two best mates" and the band rocks this rosy tone for most of the rest of the album.
For Darkness fans, a sentimental streak won't be a surprise as this is the band that brought us the nostalgic AOR of 'Friday Night'. Hot Cakes is full of anthems which are equal parts ZZ Top and Queen circa 1980; the best examples would be 'With a Woman' and 'Love is Not the Answer'. However, some of the songwriting doesn't really work with the Hawkins brothers' relentless riffing; 'Keep Me Hangin' On' unfortunately sounds like Kid Rock's trashy 'All Summer Long'. Some of the songs will seem excessively safe to the some listeners; 'Everybody Have a Good Time' sounds like a tune by The Zingzillas (Cbeebies).
The idea for The Darkness apparently came about on New Year's Eve 1999 when Justin Hawkins raised the roof with his karaoke version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Here, the band summon a great cover of Radiohead's 'Street Spirit'. This return to their roots shows that The Darkness are now more comfortable with their own style; they manage to be both jesters and minstrels and prove themselves to be more than just the musical equivalent of The Expendables movies. For most of Hot Cakes, The Darkness balance the burlesque with the songwriting, which is a real achievement. This record doesn't reach the hieghts of their debut but it's definitely a return to form for Lowestoft's rock heroes.

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