Get a Ticket To Hell - it's fun!
It’s one of the most eagerly-awaited records of the year. Next month chart-conquering, stadium-filling Lowestoft rockers The Darkness return with their new album One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back. Does it live up to the hype – or have they bought themselves a one-way ticket to obscurity? At a top secret London location EMMA LEE had an exclusive sneak preview of the record and gives her verdict.
There have been sackings, sitar solos, pressure, paranoia and Pan-pipes. After a year away from the spotlight, Lowestoft rockers the Darkness are back and about to unleash their new album on the public.
And they have a lot to prove. The quartet's debut album, Permission to Land, defied the critics who wrote them off as a cat-suited novelty Queen tribute act living out their Spinal Tap fantasies and sold 1.5 million copies in the UK alone.
The antithesis of “serious” rock from bands like Coldplay, singles like I Believe in a Thing Called Love stormed the charts.
Celebrating a time when rock stars had big hair, big ambitions and skintight trousers, they scooped a hat-trick of Brit Awards, an Ivor Novello Award and have sold out stadiums and headlined festivals.
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Lycra-clad frontman Justin Hawkins - famed for his flamboyant dress sense and outrageous onstage antics - has even had the honour of being immortalised in wax at Madame Tussauds.
But can they pull off the same trick twice? When your debut is such a phenomenal success the stakes are high. The band's publicity machine has already roared into life in preparation for the record's release next month, and yesterday the EDP was given a sneak preview at a secret location in London.
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To avoid the album being leaked on to the internet before its release, journalists were invited to a special playback instead of being sent promo copies, as is the norm.
Some had flown down from Scotland to the event, showing the level of interest.
The band now know about the pitfalls of fame. Recording the follow-up, part of which was done on home turf, has been somewhat turbulent. Justin admits nearly walking out on the band at one point.
Moustachioed bassist Frankie Poullain - the only member of the band not from Lowestoft - left in May, while they were holed up working in Wales.
He has been replaced by Dan Hawkins' guitar technician, Richie Edwards.
But the new album's typically tongue-in-cheek title - One Way Ticket to Hell . . . and Back suggests that thankfully they have not lost the sense of humour that sets them apart from other bands.
The album - which they describe as “a big rock album about faith lost and restored and about love lost and found” was recorded with the producer Roy Thomas Baker, who has recorded with legends such as Queen, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Free and the Who.
He and the band were introduced in LA, and Justin describes him as a “genius”, saying it was a privilege to work with him.
The title track, which was played on the radio for the first time earlier this week, is a storming return to form - and shows they are more ambitious than ever.
It will probably be one of the few songs featuring a sitar solo to hit the higher reaches of the charts - and has the potential to claim them their first number one.
The album will certainly keep their legion of fans - known as Darklings - happy. It's preposterous, audacious and laugh-out-loud funny, with a chant-along chorus, and leaves you with a big, stupid grin on your face - it's everything a rock record should be.
Brothers Justin and Dan decided to make a serious bid for rock stardom on Millennium Eve, inspired by Justin's song and dance karaoke rendition of the Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody.
They recruited Kirkley High School friend Ed Graham and friend Frankie Poullain and built up a strong following on the London gig circuit.
They released their debut EP in 2002 and have gone on to sell 3.5 million albums worldwide.
t One Way Ticket to Hell . . . and Back is released on Atlantic Records on November 28. The single, One Way Ticket to Hell, is released on November 14.
t One Way Ticket to Hell: It's a storming opening track, complete with squealing guitars, Justin Hawkins' falsetto and that now infamous sitar solo.
t Knockers: A slower tempo number - the slide guitar gives it a country edge and it features the line: “I like what you've done with your hair, oh yeah.”
t Is It Just Me?: A straightforward guitar-driven stomper.
t Dinner Lady Arms: The pace slows a notch as Justin asks his lady to put her ample arms around him.
t Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: An orchestral-driven ballad sees Justin getting in touch with his sensitive side. This track is destined to become a lighter-waving live favourite.
t Hazel Eyes: This track had the critics laughing out loud. It's essentially Scotland the Brave given a heavy-metal makeover.
t Bald: The longest and also one of the weakest tracks. OK but unremarkable.
t Girlfriend: Getting more upbeat again, Justin's falsetto vocals dual with a Moog synthesiser.
t English Country Garden: A frenetic, twisted interpretation of its traditional namesake - reminiscent of the band Sparks.
t Blind Man: A reverent homage to rock legends Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody-style harmonies.