Touching You, Touching Me
It’s fitting that the cover of Permission to Land depicts a spaceship preparing to touch down on Earth—the debut album by the Darkness owes its very existence to a tear in the space-time continuum. The album that came to define hard rock in the early aughts sounds nothing like anything else that was released in 2003—or the previous decade, for that matter. Or even the decade before that. “Part of our philosophy as a band was to embrace all the things that people wouldn’t do,” observes bassist Frankie Poullain.
Permission to Land fuses the bombast of Queen and AC/DC with an inexhaustible supply of hooks to create something that is teeming with unbridled enthusiasm and energy, pure joy at 33 1/3 RPM. As guitarist Dan Hawkins points out, the band’s sound was never conceived to be explicitly retro, but the album’s approach was certainly a throwback to the ’70s album-oriented rock era. Permission to Land maneuvers two of its finest power ballads into the closing spot of each side of the record. Meanwhile, the record opens with an epic run of memorable tunes: four out of the first five songs were released as singles, and the other (“Black Shuck”) is the album’s titanic opener.
Part of the enduring charm of Permission to Land is its cheekiness. The Darkness arguably became a tighter unit during the touring cycle that followed the album’s release, but Justin Hawkins was already fully formed as a lyricist, with an overall approach best described as “perversely naughty.” Hawkins peppers the choruses of several sing-along anthems with expletives and busts out wry double entendres on “Growing on Me” and “Holding My Own,” which may or may not be about genital warts and masturbation, respectively. That both tracks work as tender love songs is credit to a band that was way, way smarter than anyone was prepared to give them credit for.
The Darkness wore that underdog status as a badge of honor in the early years. Considering the struggles the band endured finding a label, Permission to Land was a testament to their ability to build a movement all on its own. Backing from tabloids and tastemakers came later. Permission to Land entered the charts immediately in the U.K. and stayed there for over a year; the album broke equally big in Japan and tickled European tushies, and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” slotted neatly into American modern rock radio playlists as a palate cleanser between endless tracks by the White Stripes. Permission to Land’s universal acclaim is not a mystery: It’s a grower and a shower. The time has finally come to induct Permission to Land into the Decibel Hall of Fame, and we can now explain all the feelings this is making us feel: equal parts elation and arousal.
Need more Darkness? To read the entire six-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Permission to Land, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.