“PERMISSION TO LAND” – which was nominated for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize – was released in the UK in July 2003. It made an extraordinary #2 debut on the UK album chart and quickly rose to #1 – marking the first debut album by a British artist to hit the top spot since Coldplay in 2000. Kicking off with the rifftastic “Black Shuck,” and blasting through a trio of remarkable singles – “I Believe In A Thing Called Love,” “Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman,” and “Growing On Me” – the album positively explodes with a no-holds-barred spirit that hasn’t been displayed in aeons.
“It’s good-time stadium rock,” singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins avows. “Bombastic, undeniable music that connects with people.”
Hailing from the coastal town of Lowestoft – the most easterly town in the United Kingdom – Justin, guitarist brother Dan eventually found themselves in London, where they met exiled Scot bassist Frankie Poullain. Ed Graham was enlisted to pound the skins, and The Darkness was born. The band began playing North London’s pubs, week in and week out. While the venues were tiny, the band’s spandex jumpsuits, pyrotechnic guitar solos, and over-the-top persona made the dank barrooms feel more like Madison Square Garden.
“A good live show is about having confidence in what you’re doing and getting that across to the audience,” Poullain says. “It’s basically about having good songs, a flamboyant frontman, and a tight rhythm section. That way there’s something for everyone. People who are new to your show will never forget you.”
“Image is important,” Justin says. “I much prefer to see a band with a bloke in a catsuit than someone standing there in jeans and T-shirt like they’ve just walked off a bus. You have to be prepared to entertain people.” As Britain’s music scene became weighted with faux Strokes and Radiohead-wannabes, The Darkness remained true to their initial vision, never worrying about fitting in. “We had lots of A&R people walking out after two songs,” remembers Poullain. “Of course, what was totally ridiculous and laughable then is now genius.”
“All we know is what we were brought up with and what we like,” Justin says. “It’s important to be fulfilled in what you’re doing, and you won’t get that if you’re copying someone else or trying to fit the current trend. I’ve seen bands go from being Blur to Oasis in the space of a fortnight. That isn’t fair to your audience, and you can lose people by not believing in what you’re doing.”
With their wit, charisma, and brilliant showmanship – not to mention a setlist full of mouth-watering, pants-wetting good tunes – The Darkness soon grabbed the attention of an audience hankering for a band offering something different. Their fanbase began blossoming in classic grassroots fashion, via the band’s hard work and a steadfast online following.
“Word about us spread through our website,” Poullain says. “There would be information about our gigs and we’d get mentions on other peoples’ sites. We had a big e-mail list we sent flyers out to. Everything just snowballed and eventually we developed enough of a following to make people sit up and take notice. There were too many people interested in us for us to be ignored.”
After two years slogging it out on the toilet circuit, The Darkness began getting gigs supporting arena gods like Metallica, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, and Def Leppard. When “PERMISSION TO LAND” finally arrived this past summer, it blew away all expectations. Fuelled by triumphant festival appearances at Glastonbury, T In The Park, Carling Weekend, and Robbie Williams’ massive Knebworth extravaganzas, Darknessmania soon swept the nation. It had taken sweat and blood, time and energy, but The Darkness’ vainglorious rock’n'roll dreams had come true in the grandest of fashions.
In addition to stealing the hearts of the fans, The Darkness has won over the UK’s notoriously hard-to-please critical establishment. “Glory will be theirs,” wrote Simon Price in The Independent. “A year of non-stop gigging has seen them build a following that means every show is a lock-out, and a reputation as the best live band in London. At last, the world is waking up… As someone once sang, it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n'roll. The Darkness have the legs for the journey.”
“(The Darkness) have everything nu-metal doesn’t,” wrote The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis, “including a wry sense of humor and an appeal that stretches beyond surly 14-year-olds.” Kerrang! – which recently recognized the band’s accomplishments with two awards: “Best Album” and “Best Live Act.” – summed it up, hailing The Darkness as “absolute genius. No, scrub that. Beyond genius and out the other side… Bold, brilliant and built to last, The Darkness are the greatest rock’n'roll band of the last twenty years.”
“For many moons, we braced ourselves for a shift in the public’s perception of The Darkness,” Justin declares with no small modicum of pride, “From underdogs to world-beaters. Our debut album proved the ideal catalyst for this transition. About time, to