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Rock Phenomenon The Darkness -  Are They For Real? - 2004-04-28


British band The Darkness has drawn ridicule from the rock press for their attempt to recapture the musical style and fashion of heavy metal "hair bands" from the 1980s. Their debut album has sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. alone, however, and tickets for their current tour are in demand.

Rock fans and the music industry had a good laugh when they first saw the music video for The Darkness' tune, I Believe In a Thing Called Love. With his long, flowing hair and spandex pants, lead singer Justin Hawkins seemed like he was making fun of everyone who ever fronted a heavy metal band in the 1980s. The group plays every musical cliché from that era, including overly-dramatic lead guitar lines. The Darkness has drawn comparisons to the fictional band Spinal Tap, whose cult film from the 1980s exposed the eccentric personalities and corrupt business practices of the rock music industry.

Permission To Land, the debut album by The Darkness, is a hit in the U.S. By popular demand, the band has added more dates to their current tour. Critics agree that their songs are well-written and filled with infectious melodies, recalling bands from the 1970s such as Queen and Sweet.

The Darkness had its beginnings when Justin Hawkins won a karaoke contest in London, performing the Queen classic, Bohemian Rhapsody. He and brother Dan, along with bass player Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham, decided to bring back the era of guitar solos, outrageous showmanship and songs that inspired fans to sing along.

After two years of playing the club scene in London, The Darkness was asked to open shows for some of their rock heroes, such as Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Metallica and Def Leppard.

"A good live show is about having confidence in what you're doing and getting that across to the audience," says drummer Frankie Poullain. "It's about having good songs, a flamboyant frontman and a tight rhythm section. People who are new to your show will never forget you."

Last year, The Darkness conquered Europe, and now they have their sights on the U.S. Their first major tour of this country got off to a rough start. Four shows into the tour, lead singer Justin Hawkins lost his voice and a few dates had to be cancelled. Now back on the road, Justin has been baffling the press with comments such as, "Our popularity is like the first three stages of rabies. First people fear us, then they start foaming at the mouth because they want us, and then they start attacking other people."

Members of The Darkness are aware that other British bands have made an impact in the U.S. through relentless touring. They're currently crossing the country, and plan a return trip later this year. Despite initial jeers from the press, The Darkness has won three Brit Awards, and continues to expand their fan base in the U.S. A street was just named after them in their hometown of Lowestoft in Norfolk, England, and they'll be headlining this year's prestigious Reading Festival during the summer.