Sunday, October 30, 2005

LET YOUR BODY DECIDE

Isn't it ironic? Actually, it isn't. From out of the Darkness and into the Ark, it's the sincere return of glam rock


Military green is soo the new black; Sweden's The Ark

You simply have to admire a man who is willing to wear a full-body leopard-print unitard on stage and sing in falsetto. You have no other choice. To leave the room in cynical disgust with rolling eyes is to deny yourself of a joyous, albeit empty, rock experience. Ask yourself this: is being serious really that important?

Two years ago, a group of four trend-denying musicians left Lowestoft, England to become the greatest rock band in the world. And while the Darkness may have not accomplished that just yet, it's not for a lack of trying. Their first album Permission to Land was a joyous, unpretentious ode to irreverent hard rock with a reverent nod to Queen and AC/DC. Scents of sweaty studded leather permeated thought-out the all-killer-no-filler debut. With ballsy rockers like "Growing On Me" and "Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman," Permission's singles played on the radio like it was 1978 and we were still praying at the temple of Judas Priest, whilst power anthems like "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" and "Love Is Only A Feeling" brought us into the unrepentant 80's when long hair was a necessity, not a vanity. Surprisingly, camp, cheese, unitards, and castratingly high falsettos were not deterrents. The album did astonishingly well selling over 2 million copies making Permission to Land a debut phenomena.

And now, two years later, the Darkness returns with their second album One Way Ticket to Hell...And Back. One has to wonder, has the Darkness shtick worn thin? After only one listen to the second album my exuberant response is definitively "no."

One Way Ticket is yet another over-the-top laser gun of pure rawk. After hearing countless comparisons to Queen, the Darkness embraced the inner-Freddies and hired producer Roy Thomas Baker, the man who was essentially responsible for recording the Queen sound. Whether you questioned the Darkness's intentions beforehand, the hiring of RTB, as he's affectionately referred to, is another bona fide attempt to win over the cynics. One Way Ticket's mantra would be if you can't go back to the 70's, bring the 70's back to you. Granted the music may feel ridiculous blasting through the speakers but, c'mon, it's also ridiculously good. Starting the album off with an honest-to-God flute solo, the songs glisten like fake gold. The soaring power ballad "Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" is as poignant as the Darkness get, and, moreover, the best song in existence about refusing to surrender to a receding hairline "Bald"" make this a triumphant sophomore effort. And I swear the last song "Blind Man" is a direct attempt to channel a modern day version of Queen. It pleases me in my retro-place, so much so that I almost want to wear a unitard in support. Almost.

Recently, in the press, Justin Hawkins has mentioned that one of his favorite new bands is the Ark. The Swedish band, which shamefully does not yet have a label in England or America, has even been rumored to possibly open for the Darkness on their upcoming tour. After listening to State of the Ark it's no mystery why. Their third album, already shaping up to be one of my favorites of the year, is a shameless glam celebration incorporating the golden riffs of T.Rex, the make-up of David Bowie, and, yup, the theatrics of Queen.

The opener "This Piece of Poetry Was Meant To Do Harm" is a good indicator for the rest of the album; pop songs that are instantly catchy and deliciously meaty, also rife with catty lyrics and cum-hither taunts. There is so much attitude in an Ark song that it practically brings your ears to their knees. Lead singer Ola Salo is one of the most flamboyant, charismatic stage presences performing today, and the rest of his band are equally skilled and entertaining musicians. Their live show is a true performance, part Hedwig, and part Roxy Music, all sensational. Ola channels Jim Morrison had the Lizard King became fabulous instead of groovy. Wearing matching outfits on-stage and demanding an exuberant reaction from the audience (and they always get it. Trust me), the Ark begs for your attention. And, like the Darkness, while you may think their songs are silly at first listen, unlike the Darkness, the lyrics like those found in the gay-adoptive rights rocker "Father of a Son," the anti-conservative "It Takes a Fool to Remain Sane" and the radical Christian challenge "Disease" establish the Ark as a political band with a liberal agenda. Salo is openly gay and uses his sharp tongue and even sharper wit to make a statement about the state of the world. Listening to music this fun with lyrics this substantial is a jarring experience but also a commendable one. It's rare for a rock band to wear their homosexuality out on their sequined sleeves but the Swedish collective looks controversy straight in the face (in fact, in "Father of a Son," Ola boasts "And I may be gay but I can tell you straight away that I'll become a better father than all of you"). Perhaps this is the reason for the Ark's lack of success in America? Maybe this country isn't ready for their alternative music being too alternative. A shame.

While State of the Ark is their most recent release, all three albums (In Lust We Trust and We Are the Ark) are strongly recommended. Check out the Ark website for more information and do your duty in ensuring that this Ark will not be lost.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent.

You got it right and I'm so happy 'bout that! The Ark is the best glam rock band and I've been listening to their music since 2001. Their concerts are something you described at the best. Ola Salo's charm is obiouvsly part of his nature and I really admire him 'cause he has the courage to let his body, his heart decide! The Ark has always been my landmark, the freedom I got.

*Freedom is to trust that you're doing what you must according to your lust*//Ola Salo.

And I extremely thank you for being so deeply intelligent.

2:50 PM  
Blogger John said...

Nicely thought out! I'm a recent convert to the Ark and lovin' em raw!

2:18 AM  
Anonymous Katy - Italy said...

I'm huge Ark Fan since 2001!
Ola is fantastic.
Hope they come back in Italy soon!
>>>The Ark Forever<<<

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Foolsoftheworld said...

The Ark is pure gold!

6:55 PM  
Anonymous elmsyrup said...

I love The Ark so much I could pass out. Now I don't like The Darkness at all, but WOW- the chance to see my favourite band to play in the UK? I'm there. Thanks for your article.

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the author rocks:) yes, the review is a real quality material and I respect such people who not only put a label "wow" or "sucks" on the band but suggesting some argument for their choice

6:51 PM  
Blogger Cool Cat (Rey) said...

Superb! now I know why this band is so hidden from the media... They Rock and I love what they put on the music industry. They are an inspiration!

11:37 AM  

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