Every hard-rock and metal band worth its weight pushes the line of good taste until it risks parody, but few do this as deliberately as The Darkness. Their cheekiness with glam-metal clichÃ©s suggests they think it all a joke; their undeniable talent argues it’s not. Following the immediate success of their 2003 debut Permission to Land, this small town British quartet was hit with a fusillade of drug, health and compatibility problems: Even while falling apart, these guys mastered the classic-rock script with quasi-satirical panache.
Featuring all four original members, Hot Cakes is the Darkness’s comeback bid, and true to form, it’s everything you’d want and expect from a band that’s chalked up rehab, tell-all autobiography and hip replacements during its time off. Whereas 2005′s One Way Ticket to Hellâ€¦and Back was overproduced by the king of over-production, Queen collaborator Roy Thomas Baker, their third album is their triumphant back-to-basics move. Given that it’s mixed by Bob Ezrin, studio overlord for KISS, Lou Reed and Pink Floyd’s most excessive works, rawness is relative: There are still more multi-tracked guitar orchestrations and overripe vocal overdubs than on the first seven Beatles albums combined.
This time around, though, there’s a renewed emphasis on generating hits. From the swaggering opening “Every Inch of You” to the closing power ballad “Love Is Not the Answer,” brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins bang out textbook rock anthems. Their note-perfect craft is both heightened and subverted by their shamelessness: Hawkins boasts in “Every Inch of You” that “Every man, woman, and child wants to suck my cock,” with those last three words delivered in a falsetto so shrill it instantly defuses the machismo. But nothing better represents the band’s dead-serious/hilarious duality than its cover of “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” where Radiohead’s tortured alt-rock is twisted into a galloping metal extravaganza nearly as paradigmatic in its own way as the original. No wonder Lady Gaga enlisted the Darkness as supporting act on her current European tour; she recognizes a kindred spirit when she sees one.