Whilst not in the same realms of incredulous-ness as “You won’t believe how old the baby on the ‘Nevermind’ album cover is now”, is it really 20 years since The Darkness exploded onto the scene in a whirlwind of riffs, handstands, and gold sequins with their debut album ‘Permission To Land’? It would seem so. And unlike those pesky tour-edition albums that land a few months after the original, the lovingly curated ‘Permission To Land… Again’ is most welcome.
The wonderfully self-effacing (and current King of the podcast) Justin Hawkins has this to say about the milestone: “So much has happened since the original release of Permission To Land that I can hardly believe it’s only been 20 years. Such turmoil, upheaval, the emotional rollercoaster ride of being nobody, becoming somebody, going back to being nobody and LOVING EVERY SECOND OF IT. The past two decades have only been this eventful BECAUSE of the impact that our debut album had. I’m grateful for every second of this experience and delighted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the best debut album by The Darkness of all time. Join me in giving this seismic long player 20 heartfelt bumps. Happy birthday PTL!”
And is it just me that read that in Justin’s voice?
As you might expect, the 20th anniversary sees multiple versions made available, and while there is a 2CD version out there (including ‘Permission to Land’, bonus tracks (demos), and singles, B-Sides, and non-album tracks) the focus on this review will shine on the stunning 4CD/DVD bundle that proves to be the best value for money. The 5LP bundle is also pretty fucking lush as well and let’s not forget that C*******s is just around the corner after all.
Opening with the ‘DC-tinged ‘Black Shuck’, the original album still sounds massive. Bloody massive. The gloriously over-the-top ‘Black Shuck’ (a pastiche of the hellfire and brimstone side of Metal) is full to the brim with Darkness-isms including their unnerving ability to sneak in an F-bomb or two thanks to the distinct vocal range of Justin Hawkins. Utterly maniacal. As is the crowd-favourite to this day; ‘Get Your Hands off My Woman’, and let’s be honest here, not many singles will dare to deliver “Motherfucker”, let alone use “Cunt”, but The Darkness dares to go where other bands fear to tread and use both, several times. The massive singalong anthems are all there (‘Growing On Me’ and the glam-tastic ‘Friday Night’ are utter perfection) and highlight the good-time ethos that The Darkness use as their mantra, but it is the extras that will have fans splaffing their hard-earned money up the wall. The demo version of ‘Black Shuck’ is even more ‘DC-tinged and the unbridled performance from Justin Hawkins is nuttier than a barrel of squirrel shit, naturally less polished than the final version, it is one of the many standouts on the entire collection. Strangely enough the demo version of ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ seems a few steps lower than the monster hit that it became. ‘Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us’ is great fun and the Thin Lizzy influence on Dan Hawkins’s guitar sound shines through on multiple occasions.
Disc 2 is ‘Singles, B Sides & Non-Album Tracks’, and there are some gems in amongst a handful of different versions of ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, and ‘Get Your Hands off My Woman’ (the clean version is bizarre), including the gorgeous, lazy feel of ‘Out Of My Hands’, more Angus Young-like riffage on ‘Makin’ Out’ and the pulsating ‘Physical Sex’ which along with the instrumental ‘Bareback’ (a great highlight of how tight The Darkness circa 2003 were) sound gigantic on a decent sound system.
Disc 3 features live recordings of shows at Knebworth (supporting Robbie Williams in 2003) and The Astoria (also recorded in 2003), and feature The Darkness in their ideal environment: the live stage…’The Best Of Me’ simply sizzles. Of the recordings from The Astoria; the opening salvo of ‘Bareback’ followed by ‘Black Shuck’ takes some beating, but ‘Friday Night’ is such a great party song that it manages this. Ending on the guitar overload of ‘Love On The Rocks With No Ice’ – disc 3 is very special. As is disc 4 which features Justin Hawkins beaming with pride as he shouts “Hello Wembley” before launching into the 24-karat boogie of ‘Givin’ Up’. By 2004 The Darkness was an arena headlining band and ‘Live At Wembley 2004’ is a warts and all moment in history with the band making the cavernous Wembley actually seem quite intimate. Before the main course of the last 30 minutes or so which begins with ‘Black Shuck’ and ends on ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ there are smaller, lesser-known moments such as ‘Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time’ and another instrumental ‘Buffet’ which leads into Hawkins leading the crowd into a few belts of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”. The last show of 2004, it captures all the regal majesty of The Darkness and highlights just exactly how popular the band was in 2003/2004: ‘Permission To Land’ went 5 times platinum after all.
An excellent package put together with great care and love, it is well worth shelling out the extra cash for the 4CD/1DVD bundle. And if funds won’t stretch to that, the 2CD version is still pretty special.
Purchase ‘Permission To Land… Again’, here.
Live dates 2023:
UK & IRELAND PERMISSION TO LAND 20 TOUR DATES
02 Dec – Belfast, Telegraph Building (sold out)
03 Dec – Dublin, 3Olympia Theatre (sold out)
05 DEC – EDINBURGH O2 ACADEMY – new show
07 DEC – NEWCASTLE O2 CITY HALL – new show
08 Dec – Norwich, UEA (sold out)
09 Dec – London, The Roundhouse (sold out)
11 Dec – Glasgow, Barrowland Ballroom (sold out)
12 Dec – Manchester, New Century Hall (sold out)
14 Dec – Bristol, Beacon (sold out)
15 Dec – Nottingham, Rock City (sold out)
16 Dec – Wolverhampton, The Wulfrun at The Halls (sold out)
18 DEC – LEEDS O2 ACADEMY – new show
19 DEC – NOTTINGHAM ROCK CITY – new show
20 DEC – BRIGHTON DOME – new show
22 DEC – LONDON ROUNDHOUSE – new show
Tickets can be purchased via https://www.thedarknesslive.com/tour-dates/.
Review – Dave