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Embrace the Darkness

Forget the hype and the backlash -- listening to Permission to Land is the key

Here again we see little evidence -- save for the "bad solos" swipe, which could be a jab at form rather than content -- that Camp Day has a problem with the actual music played by the Darkness. Buddyhead's Haterade seems to be a concoction brewed from "irony" this and "media hype" that. It begs the question, Have they even heard the record?

McManus concedes that the music's okay, up to a point. "It's all right. I just don't think they're worth all the press they're getting. Put it this way: I just saw Yngwie Malmsteen a couple of weeks ago. He's the real deal -- an honest-to-goodness metal shredding cheeseball. That guy's been dressing like the Darkness for years, and I dare say, he can play better than them. I guess I'm just put off by those that claim the Darkness is the greatest thing ever."

Camp Conclusion

Adam Ant says not to be afraid of ridicule. It's obvious the Darkness has taken him to heart.
Adam Ant says not to be afraid of ridicule. It's obvious the Darkness has taken him to heart.

Is it fair to hold against a band the hype heaped upon it? It's one thing to realize that something is goofy, but quite another to suggest that goofiness disqualifies its significance or worth. Understandably, no one wants to be the butt of someone else's in-joke; no one wants to fall for the Darkness, only for the group to say Permission to Land was just a joke and that they're secretly Joy Division and Velvets acolytes, like virtually every other hip rock band. That's why it might take a while for some to listen to the Darkness with their ears and not their eyes. Once this happens you'll be able to read an entire article about them without a mention of the word catsuit. (Almost made it!)

Understanding that not everyone knows (or cares) about this emerging cultural conflict, I've been playing Permission to Landfor folks I knew hadn't been exposed to the Darkness and, more important, to the arguments of either camp. I selected a jury that couldn't give a flying scissors kick about the hype surrounding the band, and -- bar none -- they loved the music, though for different reasons.

Older listeners said it reminded them of being in high school. Younger listeners thought it sounded like nothing they'd ever heard and, just speculating here, were thrilled that Justin Hawkins's falsetto sounded nothing like the earnest cottonmouth of Scott Stapp or any of his hordes of imitators.

"No one is right or wrong," Poullain says magnanimously. "One man's meat is another man's poison. If people want to write us off because they feel we're a joke, they have that option. We're not afraid to embrace the absurdity of life. Adam Ant had a song in which he said, 'Don't be afraid of ridicule' -- it's kind of our unofficial slogan."

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