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Home > Culture and Society

The Darkness: Copyright Protection Racket

11 November 2005

Let's not get personal about this. It would be terribly remiss to start banging on about the curious physical ghastliness of Justin Hawkins, lead singer of The Darkness. About his lank hair and wonky chops and mad glinting eyes, like Aerosmith's Steven Tyler crossed with a particularly smug orc. Nor would it be especially sporting to point out his apparently overweening pride, which writes a whole shitskip of cheques his actual talent can't cash - although that might have some bearing on things. No, let us only consider the events at hand and hold off making our lofty, cackling judgements. (It's better that way, enables you to build up a really good head of lofty cackle.)

The trouble with being at the forefront of fashion is that the joy of spearheading a trend is short-lived; soon, oh soon, you will tumble from favour into a bottomless bin of cringe. You might be chuffed to have reached the heights, but you have to accept the inevitability that - cool curdles. In entertainment terms, it's possible to fall in and out of favour and back in again, but not if you have ever been a Big Thing in the way that The Darkness were a couple of years ago. With a high-quality yet ridiculous-sounding demo, the cheeky rock berks succeeded in charming their way into the wizened hearts of music journalists, who eagerly cast them as striking a heroic Thundercat blow for irony. The fact was that the band were just soullessly aping the mannerisms of greater bands, with just enough intelligence and commitment for the whole unpleasant thing to serve as pastiche. So the journalists fell over themselves to big them up, thereby proving to themselves that they were not in fact burned-out old husks who ain't got no love, and da kidz in turn lapped it up. The Darkness sold a billion copies of their debut 'Permission to Land', toured the entirety of space and time, and sprouted a collective sense of self-importance that made God feel a bit neurotic. Everything was just dandy.

Then it went a bit shit. They sacked their bassist after he became too 'negative' about Hawkins' involvement with their manager, his girlfriend (who isn't called Jeanine Pettibone, but might as well be). Hawkins also came down with writer's block. And now that they've finished their second album - for a band that have been so excessively successful and then gone quiet, it almost constitutes a 'comeback' album - they're having trouble with leaks. Oh! This week, poor Justin has reportedly had to pay 350 to grab a purloined copy of the album from eBay, to stop it being leaked a month before its release. The search is now on, via the CD's unique ID number, for 'this character', as Hawkins describes the seller. They probably work in the music business (or are fucking someone who is, lucky them) and 'should be sacked', as the British Phonographic Industry fumed. By the way, the album is called 'One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back' and will be released on... that's enough. *Enough*.

We really don't wish to be cynical - no, really - but the nasty leak seems to be rather convenient for a band who are desperate to claw back their stranglehold on the nation's beer-fuddled student demographic. 350 is not much out of a record company publicity budget, even if the record company is a tiny bit embarrassed and reticent in the knowledge that The Darkness are a dead trend. A dud. A squib. A bare phantom whiff of a happy hubris-blast at the sprawling dinner table of the pop charts. The stunt, if that's what it is, is not only getting them press but sympathy; more poor old artists battling the immense money-sucking problem of music piracy. It's true that this is a thorny problem, causing a great deal of discomfort to musicians, labels and consumers alike, and there's no immediate solution. It is difficult to sympathise with affluent companies and individuals when they carp about what really amounts to a bit of aural shoplifting, especially when CDs which cost 14p to make cost you fourteen quid; but then it's also hard to shrug it off when people are getting a bit shafted. Wait - no it isn't. Illicit sound-swapping rules, man. It's a revolutionary act. Yeah! As for music journalists slyly flogging advance copies of protected albums online - hell, score one for them. Stuck in jobs that pay them vastly less than their worth, hamstrung by the stubborn belief that it's 'the best job in the world', getting more bitter and less inclined to stand on a sticky floor listening to a band called Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly while spending half the 30 the review will earn on pissy lager - they deserve a break. Especially at the expense of the kind of shrill, anti-musical and deeply cynical catsuit posturing that makes their job so far from being the best in the world in the first place.

If the dastardly leaker actually exists, then far from clamouring for his or her tousled head (probably his, to be honest), The Darkness should be grateful to him or her for granting the band that certain cachet afforded to those whose albums are worth leaking. It might be their last twinkle before their lumpen,
garish, undeserved star finally flumps. 'There's no way that a fan of The Darkness, based on what we did on the last record, is not going to love this record even more than the first one,' Hawkins wheedled this week. At least he's keeping his chin up.

And my, what a pointy, ugly chin it is.



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