Hot Leg, 'Red Light Fever' (Barbecue Rock)

Critical Mass
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by Charles Aaron

The Darkness' peacock-ish pop-metal frolic left frontman Justin Hawkins nose-down in a powdery trough by 2004, but here he tries to end a personal five-year slide on his new group's feisty debut. And most of these tautly played tracks -- the operatically clucking "Chickens," the glam-boogie piety rant "I've Met Jesus," the kooky strum-along saga "Trojan Guitar," the Flashdance- flaying "Cocktails" -- tweak cock-rock riffs with a synth-pop joie de vivre that illuminates Hawkins' falsetto freakazoid shtick am far better than the Darkness' Queen-size, pan-flute flameout, One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back. He'll never be anybody's Marc Bolan, but at least he's trying.

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