By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Having canceled a planned Summer Sonic appearance in 2004 at short notice, they return to these shores for the first time in 2-1/2years following the release of their second album, One Way Ticket to Hell...And Back in November.
The latest LP again explores the band's preoccupation with '70s and '80s rock music and not only does One Way Ticket take them further in this direction, but it even employs studio knob-twiddler Roy Thomas Baker, producer of that anthem of bombast, "Bohemian Rhapsody."
The combination seems to work, prompting vocalist Justin Hawkins to describe working with the studio legend on the Atlantic Records Web site as "a privilege...his ear is perfect, his instinct fabulous."
One Way Ticket has been well received, particularly for the band's emerging lyrical dexterity. The track "Knockers and Dinner Lady Arms," for example, contains the ribald comment: "I know I'll never be your Mr. Right/ But I'm happy to be your Mr. That'll Do for Tonight."
The next single from the album, "Girlfriend," comes out in May, complete with a Flashdance-inspired video that perfectly demonstrates their humorous take on rock 'n' roll.
This fun aspect of the band is evident in their live shows. Coming across as part Spinal Tap, part Aerosmith, a band that takes the stage to Abba's "Arrival" has got to have its tongue firmly in its cheek.
Brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins (guitarist) formed the Darkness about six years ago, after moving from the coastal town of Lowestoft, Britain's most easterly town, to London and hooking up with drummer Ed Graham and bassist Francis Poullain, later replaced by Richie Edwards.
After two years of slogging around Britain, the band started getting support slots for rock icons Metallica, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple and Def Leppard before hitting the big time in summer 2003.
Their debut album, Permission To Land, prompted Kerrang! magazine to dub them "the greatest rock 'n' roll band of the last 20 years," and the release clearly hit a chord with the public, topping the British album chart for four weeks and running up sales of more than 3.5 million.
Three sold-out nights at Wembley Arena and a headline spot at the Reading Festival provided evidence that the group's brand of '80s-influenced pomp rock had taken the country by storm.
Establishment recognition wasn't far behind, as they received three Brit Awards--Best Act, Best Rock Act and Best Album--and the BASCA Ivor Novello Award for Songwriters of the Year in 2004
The prizewinning hasn't just been for their music. Like many rock stars these days, the Darkness aren't ashamed to admit to an interest in soccer, a passion that resulted in the group's Soccer Six (futsal) team winning a celebrity tournament at Everton's Goodison Park two years ago.
But with the the Darkness brothers joined by ex-Liverpool and Republic of Ireland international John Aldridge in attack and Anfield heroes Robbie Fowler and Steve MacManaman coaching, the lineup sparkled almost as much as their stage gear.
And the glittering continues. Three years since the glory of the Brits, Justin is still picking up awards. Readers of Britain's New Musical Express voted him 2005's Worst Dressed musician in the ShockWaves NME Awards, for his gaudy latex catsuits, thinning hair and growing beer belly.
Mind you, if more people had seen his attempt to imitate Bobby Ball (of "famous" British comedy duo Cannon and Ball) in the artwork of the latest release, he might have pulled in considerably more votes.
The Darkness will play April 20, 7 p.m. at IMP Hall in Osaka, (06) 6233-8888; April 21, 7 p.m. at Diamond Hall in Nagoya, (052) 265-2666; April 22, 6 p.m. at Studio Coast in Shin Kiba, Tokyo, (03) 5466-0777.