Laugh? We bought the bloody T-shirt.
It’s hard to date the exact moment when cool first ruled, but you could
probably pin it down to the day that [a]Strokes[/a] first made the front cover of NME back in 2001. A five-man shrug in skinny ties, theirs was a look so seductive it plotted rock music’s future trajectory, heralding an age where the threadbare blazer or the ironic mesh trucker cap spoke more than tunes ever could. In short, the Triumph of the Hipster.
Kiss those days goodbye. Cool is dead and [a]The Darkness[/a] are feasting on its corpse. Bare pigeon-chest fluttering, hair plastered like soggy straw over his face, Sir Justin Hawkins prances up to the microphone. [I]”Anyone up for a
boogie-woogie?”[/I] he drawls in some unholy synthesis of Nigel Tufnel and Timmy Mallet, lip curled like an inbred English gent ensconsed in a castle of his own splendid ridiculousness. He already knows the answer. With 500,000 copies of their debut album ‘Permission To Land’ frotting up against [a]David Gray[/a] in the UK’s record collection, [a]The Darkness[/a] are a new national institution. And no wonder, because [a]The Darkness[/a] understand the very British art of good camp: to have fun when you’re being serious, to be serious about fun.
This is the precise set [a]The Darkness[/a] have honed over the last six months,
from the [I]”Give me a ‘D’! Give me an ‘Arkness!’”[/I] stage proclamations to the
muscular Saxon-esque cover of [a]Radiohead[/a]’s ‘Street Spirit’. Confetti explodes over the audience during ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’. A roaming pack of wild dogs are visibly distressed by Justin’s balls-trembling falsetto on ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’. Sure, just like bassist Frankie Poullain’s neatly-maintained Freddie ‘tache, it’s excessive, it’s melodramatic, it’s all a bit silly. But if you
want pastiche, look first to [a]Jet[/a] – a band that couldn’t chew gum if Mick Jagger
hadn’t done it back in the ‘60s. [a]The Darkness[/a] are real. This music couldn’t
be played by younger men. Dumb to the point of being foolhardy, foolhardy to
the point of being brave, brave to the point of being all-conquering – this is
the music of men who have nothing to lose. Too late to play it cool. Too late
to write a ‘Hail To The Thief’. Shit, barely enough time for a costume change.
But, by golly, there is enough time. And as Justin bounds back on stage in
furry white bodywarmer – which stays intact for all of one chorus – you’re
reminded of the words of another great British dandy: ridicule is nothing to be
scared of. Laugh? We bought the bloody T-shirt.