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This is a good record. And not just a good record, a great record. One could either say "it's old metal rip-off," or "the greatest thing I've ever heard." Maybe it's neither, but when it comes down to it, Permission to Land is a solid rock record that is not afraid to hold back anything. ANYTHING.
The album starts off with a short, yet excellent interlude of organ and mellotron instrumentation, giving a perfect feeling of what the album's tonal intention will be. The first two cuts, "The Spoils of the Spoiled," and "Hover Near Fame," are quickly paced, yet showcase the deep emotional sentiment in the softer acoustic-backed music. The third and fourth tracks ("Hover Near Fame," and "From California" respectively) are more of the traditional sounding flavor of the New Amsterdams.
Each guy in the band is a master of their instrument: solid drums, deep and complimentary bass lines that dance around the melody and guitars that blow out the wax in your ears, complete with dual solos and falsetto vocals. Singer Justin Hawkins is not afraid to explore the range he has, and growls deep at times, then rages into high pitched lines that almost go off the charts. The only way to explain the band concisely is to quote the Darkness bassist Frankie Poullain: "we're the straight Queen and the gay AC/DC."
With that in mind, do not think they rip off those bands in their songs -- quite the contrary. They've captured their inspiration(s) and put their own spin on the music. The first song, "Black Shuck," shows that they can take a heavy, riff-driven melody and create a powerful rock song around it. And the songs aren't mindless excuses to do finger tapping, or unnecessary screeches; "Growing on Me" talks simply about how someone is always on their mind. The surprising song of the record is "Giving Up." It's a great rock song - abrupt, loud, bold, and almost strangely happy-sounding. Yet the words talk in the perspective of a drug addict: "I'd inject into my eyes/If there was nowhere to put my skag/All I want is brown/And I'm going to town/Shooting up as soon as I'm back." From just listening, you wouldn't think the song is about that, but when seeing the lyrics, the abrupt edge of the song gives the feeling of "giving up," not caring. As far as guitar virtuosity, both Hawkins brothers deliver amazing solos, worthy of Brian May or Eddie Van Halen.
But after songs like that, there's the brazen "Get Your Hands Off My Woman," a rocker dripping with machismo and jealousy. Fast-paced and chord-heavy, it blows away the previous songs in terms of depth and ferocity. And the range of vocals here is just mind blowing: this is where Hawkins shines. From midrange, to the peaks of his voice box, there is no holding back. Every member attacks this song as if it were an opponent in a boxing match, not letting up till it's over.
"LOVE ON THE ROCKS WITH NO ICE." I cannot say anything about this song other than it might possibly push this record over the top into either the ironic or unbelievably classic category. The title says it all: this song goes off on every possible musical aspect. It's a slow, dingy, almost bluesy song, and the longest of the album. And it's the most "modern" sounding, reminiscent of Alice in Chains. It does not drag, it does not lighten up at all - it grabs you and does not let you go until it makes you feel the rock in every bone in your body; by far the definition of the Darkness.
Listen yourself to see the power of this band. They are not a throwback to an embarrassing musical age, or a Spinal Tap wannabe. The Darkness does what every band wish they had the balls to do: play rock and roll to the unbridled edge, and go off when the feeling's good.
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.