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One Way Ticket to Hell...And Back!
Not long ago in these pages I touted The Darkness as the potential saviors of rock and roll. Unfortunately One Way Ticket to Hell...And Back!, their follow-up to the exciting Permission to Land, falls victim to the all too familiar sophomore slump. It's not that it's a bad follow-up, it's just more of a lateral move than a forward step for the band. At its worst, it's an overblown, overhyped and overproduced mess - but hey, that's what The Darkness is all about. What else can possibly be expected from a band whose front man prances around stage in a sequined cat suit and has an unrepentant love of leopard skin fabric?
The album opener "One Way Ticket to Hell and Back!" chronicles lead singer Justin Hawkins's struggle with cocaine abuse. For a song about drug abuse, it's oddly a rather fun affair. The over the top guitar riffage is quite similar to "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" the song that broke the band two years ago. Except this time around, the band recruited renowned Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker in an ode to their heroes, so we get the added bonus of a pan flute and sitar to compliment Hawkins's Freddy Mercury inspired falsetto and self-aware cheesy guitar riffs. At times, such as the track "Blind Man," the band seems like a doppelganger for the legendary British rockers.
There's not a serious moment to be found here - the band's tongues remain firmly planted in their cheeks and once again a page is take from the Spinal Tap school of rock. This is most apparent on "Hazel Eyes" with its ridiculous guitar solos and a Chinese opera influenced chorus. I dare you not to sing along. Now here is where the problem lies: Hawkins is an entertaining lyricist. He knows how to tell a good joke in the context of a song. The problem is that jokes are never as funny the second time you hear them.