Home Albums Album Review : The Darkness – ‘Permission to Land…Again 20th Anniversary Edition’

Album Review : The Darkness – ‘Permission to Land…Again 20th Anniversary Edition’

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Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM

No-one would have guessed that the unlikely saviours of hard rock would have come from Lowestoft, Britain’s most easterly town.

Not previously known as a rock ‘n’ roll mecca, the Suffolk birthplace of Dan and Justin Hawkins became the centre of the universe when the quartet launched their seminal debut on the seventh of July 2003. Preceded by the ‘Get Yours Hands Off My Woman’ and ‘Growing on Me’ singles, the album became an instant best seller, the band’s sense of fun matched with some killer tunes in the vein of the greatest from the NWOBHM era and Justin’s extraordinary falsetto grabbed hearts and minds.

As with anything popular, there were some that dismissed the band as a joke, saying their whole image and sound was nothing but a pastiche. Doubtless they laced things through with a tongue in cheek humour that echoed the English absurdities of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore etcetera but musically they were deadly serious, the material scorching slabs of high-octane hard rock that owed much more to AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Queen than to anything that Spinal Tap or Bad News pumped out.

Taking everyone by surprise, here was a record that was much-loved across the boards and dragged in committed metalheads and those who’s only interest in rock was the irresistible riffage of ‘Back in Black’. With headline making support slots with Robbie Williams at his mammoth Knebworth shows, The Darkness became part of the established music scene and brought properly loud guitars back into the chart once more. This 20th anniversary release celebrates those heady days with the original album, live tracks and some much anticipated rarities that have set this up as a must-have purchase.

With the tale of local legendary beast ‘Black Shuck’ kicking things off, this was an album to crank up to maximum volume, its propulsive riff throwing you headfirst into their world. Peppered with references to the surrounding area, ‘Permission to Land’ distilled all that was great about growing up in a small town but with your eyes firmly set on the biggest stages of the world, the feeling akin to the protagonist in Foreigner’s ‘Juke Box Hero’. With tracks like ‘Get Your Hands…’, ‘Growing…’ and ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, there was enough heavy-duty thrills and massive hooks to grab the masses and the material was so well crafted as to prove that here was genuine talent all wrapped in a wonderfully hairy and wild package.

It wasn’t just all heads down, boogie as the gorgeous ‘Love is Only a Feeling’ proved, its crystalline structure shimmering like diamonds and the soul at its heart never mawkish but always true. The release of ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the bells End)’ cemented their title as the nation’s favourite rock band, its perfectly crafted vibe and single entendre title bringing a smile to the face of all that heard it. All are included here, along with alternative takes, demos and ‘B’ sides of singles, the original album still sounding both wonderfully traditional and yet bitingly fresh.

Despite the critical acclaim and the huge sales, the band had to fight for every inch of success, often overcoming huge resistance from both the music press and audiences alike. To conquer this, a steely-eyed determination and self-belief in themselves and the material led them to the promised land of rock nirvana and their stock continued to grow on the back of constant touring and unbeatable live shows. Included in this sumptuous package, the aforementioned Knebworth set stands out as a band in their element, playing to a huge crowd and loving every moment of it. Equally as good, the headline show from London’s Astoria sees the band refine their craft, buoyed up with the success they’d worked so hard for.

Capping it all off, their Wembley Arena show caught here mixes the incendiary with the feeling they were overstretching themselves a little, the weight of expectation and ego a dangerous blend. You can’t fault the performances and the inclusion of material from ‘One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back’ shows the band growing but whilst the enthusiasm is there, having the audience mixed so low robs it of some of its widescreen, arena-filling atmosphere. Aside from the much-welcomed bells and whistles from the extra tracks in this four-disc presentation, what remains is the monolithic triumph of the debut and in that the Lowestoft boys became legends.

As well-loved as Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is, save your money on those seemingly never-ending reissues and indulge your senses in this set. It may not benefit from some Dolby Atmos 4D mix but ‘Permission to Land…Again’ is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Time to dig out that catsuit.

Full tour dates and tickets can be found HERE

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