Obviously, The Darkness are no strangers to failure. Despite being brilliant, 2006's One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back was a commercial flop after the band went down more of an alternative route, so with Hot Cakes, they've learned that the real way to win the hearts of rock fans everywhere is to just chill the fuck out and rock. And that's the basic essence that can be heard in the smooth opener, Every Inch of You as an instantly catchy drum beat from Ed Graham accompanies subtle guitar duels between Dan and Justin Hawkins that sound reminiscent of AC/DC at their most chilled out, all before Justin screams "Every man wanna try/Wants to/ Suck my cock!" unleashing his infamous falsetto vocals, that makes you remember why The Darkness were always labelled as being such a ridiculous and mental band. Which also reminds us of why we love them so very much.
From there, the album is a treat of over-the-top pieces of rock and roll with a quarry-load of hooks and the bravado and the big man boldness that dominated the rock scene of the 1970's and 80's so well made effortlessly enjoyable. With a Woman has the obvious groove of Led Zeppelin compacted into a pouncing three minute belter while the adrenaline packed Nothin's Gonna Stop Us with it's charged up guitars and operatic choruses is so filled to the brim in it's songwriting with sugar coated fun, that an inability to raise a smile in the process of listening to it should be an encouraging sign for you to question your place in life.
The sense of good times is raised in more ways that creating the amount of fun that could give Andrew W.K. a run for his money however. The uplifting sound of Keep Me Hangin' On and Living Each Day Blind is testament to just how unexpectedly solid and seriously taken the band's songwriting really is, which sometimes has an ability to be overlooked by many people. The sturdy melodies upheld by the entire band gives the songs power that grips listeners by the ears and forces them to genuinely take Justin Hawkins seriously in what he says and in the moment Hawkins takes grabbing the audiences attention into his own hands on Concrete, the ability to make his messages utterly sincere and heartfelt while simultaneously projecting his voice to new heights is purely mind shattering. It feels less like an epic moment to a song, and more like a moment that defies all basic logic of reality.
Since I dig my Radiohead quite a lot, I was initially horrified to see that Hot Cakes featured a cover of Street Spirit (Fade Out) because, you know, The Darkness is kind of the opposite of Radiohead musically. I suppose that's what makes the song so incredibly mind blowing. Because the bands are so incredibly different, The Darkness could never do a straight simple cover of such a beautiful and delicate song. The result sounds like the original Street Spirit after going through a car crash in the middle of a theatre. The subtle and delicate riffs of Thom Yorke are turned into a faster thrashier proposition by the Hawkins brothers here and at times sounds less like Radiohead and more like early Iron Maiden. As a Radiohead fan, this should sound disgusting, but yet, it's utterly convincing. With this more metallic take on the song, The Darkness give Street Spirit a wilder more aggressive sound while also managing to highlight the vulnerable tone of the original which in many ways give the song a more tragic element. I really don't think I can do the kind of thing where I instantly state the original is better. I think the original and this cover will have to exist as separate entities. They're both amazing.
There are moments on Hot Cakes that will remind you of why The Darkness originally kicked so much ass first time around with Permission to Land and why the method of well constructed rock and roll songs with big hooks can essentially never die, but can also prove that they're so much more capable of making songs with very genuine messages that you can take seriously without showing any signs of mellowing out. Even if you don't view the comeback of The Darkness as a highly anticipated event, you can surely view this album as a triumphant work of great rock and roll that proves that maybe there was always something substantial to them and they were always more than some NME trend. Let The Darkness reign.
The Darkness' Hot Cakes is out now via PIAS. The band will tour the UK in September with Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight.