HO HO WHO: The English cock-rock ensemble known as The Darkness guitar-soloed all over 2003, with a glam swagger that summoned Roxy Music and G-N-effin-R but didn’t quite fetch either. Shortly after “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” came and went, Justin Hawkins, the band’s falsetto impresario, descended into a tragic but predictable (even cliché) spiral of booze and drugs. Emerging from the metaphorical darkness, The Darkness reunited in 2011; Last of Our Kind, the group’s fourth studio album, arrived earlier this year. The deluxe edition of this record includes a stocking-stuffer single, “I Am Santa.”
I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED CLAUS: Like anything The Darkness does, “I Am Santa” is distressingly ironic, disturbingly authentic, and totally plastic. The music video—virtually every song by The Darkness has a music video, that should tell you something—depicts what could be a vintage performance on Solid Gold. You can almost imagine Marilyn McCoo in a shoulder-less zebra-print dress introducing them, except she would never do that. The song itself opens with a big anthemic studio riff that could be called Springsteen-esque if it weren’t illegal under federal law to compare anything by The Darkness to anything by The Boss. The lyrics, to say nothing of the brunette models in holiday leotards, embrace a straightforward tradition in Christmas music: sexual bravado. “A picturesque December, all the children are at play,” Hawkins sings. “And I don’t want no chestnuts or Ferrero Rocher.”
DO THEY KNOW IT’S THE DARKNESS?: This is the second Christmas gimmick song by The Darkness, which put out “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” back in 2003. That song sounds enough like “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” to pass as a holiday parody of the hit single, which is mind-bending, when you think about it, since “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”—and really, the band’s whole schtick, up to if not including Hawkins’s stint in rehab—is one giant winking nod to the entire spectrum of early ‘80s hard rock ranging from Boston to the Scorpions. It’s as if the band has gone so far around the ironic bend that they’ve arrived at a genuine love of whammy bars and Christmas rock. It’s worth noting that this band was so popular in 2003 that “Christmas Time” nearly made it to the top of the UK singles charts in December of that year. It got edged out by another what-the-fuck-were-we-thinking? single: Gary Jules’s super-serious cover of “Mad World” by Tears for Fears. Mad indeed. The world would wait 12 years for The Darkness to celebrate Christmas again.
CHEER FACTOR: 7/10. “I Am Santa” descends into laser-like harmonized guitar solos and Hawkins’s dog-whistle yawping because it has to: It’s a song by The Darkness. Still, it’s a better song than their last holiday effort—and better music than Christmas cock-rock has any right to be. “I Am Santa” gets a bump from good to greatness if Hawkins is in fact singing “I’m hungry for Yule,” not “I’m hungry for you.” Mandatory listening if you are spending the holiday in a Corvette.