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Hot Cakes starts off with a dirty joke, and not a very funny one at that. After detailing his past decade’s hardships with cocaine and fame, newly returned frontman of The Darkness Justin Hawkins wails about how every man he met during his formative years wanted to service him.
These opening lines to “Every Inch of You” are indicative of the content on the rest of the album (their first since 2005’s underrated One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back). Over 11 songs, the words begin to scrape the surface of something serious and human before reverting to the band’s usual glam rock tropes. That a group known for dork-fingered shredding, leopard print and general buffoonery even thought to discuss their personal turmoil in the first place is a small step toward musical growth but, sadly, The Darkness squanders these seeds of opportunity. The party is always waiting, the humor is always cheeky (you’ll be hard-pressed to find mention of “sabre-toothed cave ladies” on another album this century), and, despite Hawkins’ troubles, the drugs are always a laughing matter.
Even though no one expects The Darkness to churn out a gloomy, self-loathing opus in the vein of Alice In Chains’ Dirt, it would be nice to see them channel their travails into something that combines more grounded subject matter with their signature brand of nostalgic fun. Instead, we get more of the usual cock-rock posturing and exaggerated machismo. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” charges forward with Dan Hawkins’ syrupy harmonies and soloing, and “Everybody Have a Good Time” reels in ears with exuberant cowbell and an anthemic chorus. And even these songs fail to capture the raw energy of Permission To Land or the orchestral pomposity of One Way Ticket, instead falling limp between the two.
Surprisingly, the album’s most effective moment ends up being a cover. The band jolts the moody lullaby of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” with ’80s hair metal thrash, adding an element of surprise to something familiar. If only The Darkness could do the same to their own songs.
Essential Tracks: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,” “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
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