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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 10:36 GMT
The Darkness plot comeback coup
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Flamboyant rockers The Darkness release their comeback single, One Way Ticket, in the UK on Monday. The multi-million-selling, triple Brit Award-winning band insist they can pick up where they left off.

The Darkness
The Darkness say being seen as a joke has helped their careers
When The Darkness became Britain's biggest band two years ago, it was a triumph over critics who took one look at the sparkly catsuits, heard the stadium-sized riffs and declared them one big retro joke.

Then the three-and-a-half million people who bought their debut album Permission to Land proved a band with a sense of fun could be taken seriously.

But during The Darkness' spell out of the spotlight, a fresh generation of bands have picked up the British rock baton and run into the critics' arms - from Franz Ferdinand to The Arctic Monkeys.

So is there still a place for The Darkness - and will the novelty wear off if the new album, One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back, does not come up to scratch?

It will sell as many as the last one and then loads more
Justin Hawkins on the new album
Singer Justin Hawkins bristles at the suggestion that the band's fortunes could go either way.

"No, it's going to go one way," he says. "It's not going to go the other way."

Hardcore followers will "absolutely love" the new album, he says, and it will also win over new fans.

"The way I anticipate it going is that it will sell as many as the last one and then loads more."

The Darkness at Brit Awards 2004
The group picked up three Brit Awards in 2004
For a while, the band were "clinging on" to what they had achieved and hoping they did not slide back.

But they have shored up their position in the rock world and are ready to move up to the next level, the frontman says.

"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. It's the same band, better album."

Love them or hate them, at least The Darkness provoke a strong reaction from most music fans.

If we hadn't had that kind of outrage to what we do in the first place, we wouldn't be in this position
Justin Hawkins
And Hawkins says that reaction has worked in their favour - even if it means some people think they are a joke.

"If we hadn't had that kind of outrage to what we do in the first place, we wouldn't be in this position," he says.

"It's a miracle for us - the fact that those criticisms exist is probably what makes us so huge because everybody wants to see for themselves and make up their own minds."

The Darkness are "a people's band", Hawkins says - and the average person on the street has never given him any negativity.

"I don't do the Elton John thing," he says. "I don't go around with security, I go to Sainsbury's or Somerfield. I live a perfectly normal life."

The Darkness
Richie Edwards (left) has replaced former bassist Frankie Poullain
If some reports - and the band's official record company biography - are to be believed, The Darkness almost did not make it to a second album.

Bassist Frankie Poullain was sacked and the biography quotes the singer saying he almost quit the band and guitarist brother Dan Hawkins saying they felt the pressure.

But the band are now doing their best to play down the problems.

"We wanted it to be as dramatic as possible and for everyone to think that we went through something but we didn't at all really," the singer says.

The recording was a "great experience" because the line-up change gave them a "new dynamic" and they got to work with former Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker, he says.

"This was an unforgettable experience for us. Even though it hasn't had a big presence publicly, it's just been the best year in terms of the creativity and the fun aspect."


Poullain's departure came about because he "didn't trust" Justin Hawkins' romantic involvement with the band's manager Sue Whitehouse, the frontman says.

"That was one of the main reasons why he became so suspicious of everything.

"So when he gets sacked, it's based on the fact that nobody feels comfortable in a room with him and they don't want to work with him any more because it's negative."

Poullain's place was taken by former guitar tech Richie Edwards and the singer says the move is "not just a replacement - this has improved the band tenfold".

"It's great for Ed [Graham, the drummer] to have somebody who can play in time, it's great for us to have somebody who's nice.

"So let's just start kicking ass and moving on."

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