2001 - SMH.com
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Let there be rock. Immediately, after listening to Roll On I had to put on The Baby Animal's debut and then seek out several AC/DC tracks, followed by The Jam's Setting Sons and Sound Effects. Finally Deep Purple's In Rock capped things off nicely.
Prediction: Roll On will win The Living End some more pointy ARIAs. Not that it's important. As a sophomore set Roll On is a profound step away from the self-titled debut that sold 400,000-plus albums and spawned no less than five hit singles. Sure, the punk/mod. rockabilly roots are there, the latter less so than the former two but, really, Roll On could be entitled Rock On - and that's not to demean what is essentially a very clever album on which the trio unashamedly throw themselves even further into the past and end up at the beginning of the '70s as much as they do at the end.
Albums like Roll On have been made before - but not for a long time and rarely with such passion and fury. Three things standout: Nick Launay's stunning production that has a rawness and clarity that's frightening; the sheer instrumental ability of the band and Cheney as a lyricist and guitarist; the energy. Whap! It smacks you in the face.
Most of Roll On is fired up by a take-no-prisoners attitude that somehow comes off in the face of the band's growing ability to work out complex and twisted arrangements within a 3-4 minute song structure.
At it's best on tracks like Revolution Regained, Read About It and Killing The Right, the End's righteous musical progressive gives colour and interest way beyond the normal capabilities of such songs. The anthems - Roll On, Don't Shut The Gate, Silent Victory - are real mosh pit pleasers, although the album closing Uncle Harry is a bit of a throwaway and probably unnecessary other than as a crowd pleaser.
The distinction between this and their debut though is that while the anthems are there, most are far more than just simple workouts to an overcharged chorus. That comes down to Cheney's songwriting which is improving all the time. Lyrically, the politics of East Timor and immigration control sit comfortably against songs about overcoming personal limitations, paranoia and the allure of madness and violence. Just as importantly he also has an ear for melody which appears in some of these songs at the strangest times - almost as weapon against the pure force Launay's production unleashes. Just listen to Dirty Man, one of Cheney's best songs yet.
You're going to read a lot of hyperbole about Roll On - most of it deserved: some people are probably going to call it a masterpiece. It isn't. Roll On is mighty fine and a statement that this is an band with the ability to go all the way. But The Living End will make better albums in future - they're growing so fast that the ideas don't quite gel completely all the time and neither does the album. And there a couple of disposable tracks. That said, Roll On is that much better than anything being done by their contemporaries - and that includes Silverchair - that they remain THE band you'd just love to have on your label or to manage.
The End roll on and the you can only wonder what they'll do next. Can't wait.