3.09.2004

Permission To Land


Or: Why I've embraced The Darkness
[ed note: I want you guys to listen to this while you read along.]

Is this the year of the falsetto? At one time only the King of Pop would have been able to sell records with it. I think the 'hee-hee' was still untouchable when Whitney came along with her 'I Get So Emotional' in the 80s. It just wasn't done. What if you got it wrong? Can you make a comeback from Jermaine Jackon Singleville? The sound, abandoned, became the provenance of boy-bands like NKOTB, New Edition and Menudo. 80s punk, rock & hair bands couldn't afford to sound like that - it wouldn't sell and MTV wouldn't play it*.

And of course, the biggest hurdle of all: What if you sounded like Queen? Nobody could be that big, with such an essential sound and not hit the mimic/filler label with obscurity-hurtling force.

When Freddie Mercury died, he took Queen's trademark sound with him. IMHO, it left a serious gap in the music industry - and raised the question only recently (yes, because I've have a playlist with XTina, Outkast & Britney on repeat, wondering what happened to my musical taste); what happened to the rockers? What happened to the big sound & orchestration? Where was the glitz? The glam? The excitement?

The answer that came to me as I took stock wasn't pretty:
• Led Zepplin broke up in 1980
• Pink Floyd - 1983 (anything released after that year detracts from the other body of work),
• The Black Sabbath roster was ever-rotating
• AC/DC? has to be dead and risen.. it's the only explanation.
• Deep Purple was done in 75, ..maybe so was Elton John - even Elvis Costello ran off with Burt Bacharach. Great Britain just hadn't been pulling its weight in the musical world: it seemed that rock had evaporated - there was no time for ten minute orchestral maneuvering with the MTV Generation. Or maybe because of the immediacy of the 'net, music just couldn't keep up.

I really couldn't figure it out.
Then in January, it hit me.

An in-store performance at Virgin in NYC had utterly blown me away. That high pitch, the falsetto came full on from another skinny brit - the same sound that has been embraced by everyone from indie-rock Dashboard Confessional to whiney star-fuckers Ryan Adams & Justin Timberlake was coming from The Darkness.

You can read all about them on their website, I don't want to discuss their history or the remark Justin made about his brother. I want to talk about their sound.

The more I listened to Permission To Land, the more I tried to break apart the sound trying to figure out what kept me returning to it in my playlist. It's probably all the Brian May riffs, the attitude in the vocals. The songs themselves are so accessible - who hasn't said "Get Your Hands Off of My Woman, Motherfucker?" at one point or another? What band hasn't put out a great song about drug abuse with a catchy refrain? Teenage obsession? Check. Unhealthy relationships? Double check. Love songs? Checkity check. Mythic hellhound come to harass the locals? CHECK - you thought I was kidding, didn't you!

Cleverness married with a healthy sense of irony, showmanship and everyman-ness - it's a phenomenon and I hope they come around my way; The Darkness is churning out music straight from Brian May's dormant dreams.



*I just want to say that I miss Headbangers Ball. That's all.