The band were directed by manager Sue Whitehouse, who had managed them since Justin Hawkins' time as a creator of music jingles and their original band days as Empire. The band were renowned for their live shows from very early on, and such was the popularity of the band, they had a Carling Homecoming gig booked for the London Astoria before they had even signed a record deal. The band already had music industry interest from their days as Empire through connections with Sue Whitehouse, who was based at Savage & Best in Camden. Joe Taylor, Aled Jones and Paul Scaife at The Tip Sheet first heard about the band through a post on The Tip Sheet message board, and featured Love is Only a Feeling in January 2002. They started Record of the Day, and featured the song again around the time of SXSW in March 2003. They wanted to feature Friday Night, but they were told the band was saving it for an album.
According to A&R Nick Raphael in an interview with HitQuarters, there was no initial clamour to sign the band, "There couldn’t have been less of a buzz, and only two record labels showed any interest in them." He believes the reason for lack of interest was that "The business as a whole thought they were uncool. In fact, people were saying that they were a joke and that they weren’t real." As part of Sony Music UK, Raphael had attempted to sign them but the band instead opted to go with Atlantic Records.
Permission to Land, went straight up to number two on the UK Albums Chart upon its release on 7 July 2003, before going to number one and staying there for four weeks, eventually going on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK alone.
The band took inspiration for some of their work from the local north Suffolk area surrounding their home town, Lowestoft, including "Black Shuck", which mentions a fictional dog which supposedly haunts the church of the nearby village of Blythburgh. "Stuck in a Rut" also mentions a set of roads known as the "Barnby Bends", and the "Acle Straight", both of which are prominent routes between Lowestoft and Beccles and Norwich and Great Yarmouth respectively. The band recorded an interview for MTV Japan, which discusses the inspiration behind these songs, as well as featuring self-filmed footage of their home town. This features on a bonus DVD included with the Japanese deluxe edition of the album.
The album was generally well-received by music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 79, based on 19 reviews.
The success of this album led to heavy touring for the band, including European portions of Metallica's Summer Sanitarium Tour 2003. They then went on to headline the Carling Festival in 2004. The band won three BRIT Awards in 2004 in response to the album, Best Group, Best Rock Group and Best Album. They also won two Kerrang! awards in 2004 for Best Live Act and Best British Band. The third single from the album, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love", was a substantial hit in the UK as was their tilt at the Christmas 2003 number 1, "Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)", which only just fell short, both singles reaching No.2 in 2003.
In addition to its chart success, Permission to Land also provided The Darkness with two high-profile music awards; Best Rock Album at the 2003 Kerrang! Awards and Best British Album at the 2004BRIT Awards (at which they also won the awards for Best British Group and Best British Rock Act).Permission to Land was voted 49th in the 50 Greatest Albums of the 21st Century in Kerrang!. Permission to Land was later referenced in the song "Whichever Way You Wanna Give It" by lead singer Justin Hawkins' other band Hot Leg. In 2005, the album was ranked number 356 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.