Sound: Who remembers The Darkness? Nine (yes, nine) years ago their multi-platinum debut album "Permission To Land" stormed the charts and reintroduced air guitar, falsetto and tight jumpsuits to the mainstream. Free of pretence and full of tunes, it was a big hit for what was a rather flaccid period in pop music. They eventually went down the VH1 breakup route, allowing Americans Steel Panther to pick up their mantle but, perhaps sensing that cosy 9-5 may never come along while he's wearing 4-inch platforms, Justin Hawkins has gathered up the old band again and together they're rolling the clock back to 1986 via 2003.
Predictably, they've all but lost the hit making touch that propelled them to their original stardom, but this more low-key affair at least draws from many of the same influences Queen, AC/DC and any number of 80s hair bands to similar effect. The vocals are a little less ridiculous and the throttle is noticeably lax at times but as a classic rock pastiche "Hot Cakes" still functions perfectly well.
Highlights include "Concrete", which moves with much more energy than the usual reunion fare, uplifting powerballad "Living Each Day Blind" and, above all, their utterly brilliant cover of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". With a fully activated no-f*cks-given setting, Hawkins and co. perform a comprehensive glam desecration of the classic ode to hopelessness. Thom Yorke would convulse at the falsetto wails and gratuitous soloing but if there's one moment on "Hot Cakes" where The Darkness temporarily reclaim their OTT, tongue-in-cheek majesty then this is it. // 7
Lyrics: It's fair to say that the Radiohead comparisons start and end there. As you may have guessed from the cover art, which depicts three young women as syrup-drenched pancake topping, "Hot Cakes" is traditionally glam rock in its treatment of women and sex, both a celebration and trivialisation of the fairer half. However, with the exception of the nauseatingly crude opener "Every Inch Of You", ("Every man, woman and child wants to suck my c*ck") the language is not particularly explicit and actually comes off as quite restrained at times, which will be a surprise to those who remember the finer details of "Permission To Land". // 6
Overall Impression: If their reunion tour sales are anything to go by, The Darkness have held onto a core of diehard fans in their home country and a legion of curious onlookers worldwide, and for those who had high hopes for the new material, this album should reap some satisfaction. Let us not forget, though, that this is a reunion album and a reunion album from a band who had limited shelf-life to begin with. It's not to be taken seriously and, frankly, not to be listened to more than a few times but, considering the potential for embarrassment and failure, "Hot Cakes" is actually something of a success. // 7
- Duncan Geddes (c) 2012