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On The Inside

Author: Jesse Lilley

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I always thought that, in the last episode of Prisoner, Bea and the gals should do a super thrashing electro punk version of the show’s theme song. Their yellow skivvies and denim smocks would dramatically self destruct, and be replaced with vinyl, tasselled stiletto booties and a zipped up, chained down, all shining black, acqua and hot pink combo with Lizzie on electric keyboards.
Whilst Joan Kirner almost gave body to such a vision on the D-Generation a few years ago via Joan Jett, Cell Block H never got the opportunity. Fortunately, though, a band (or rather a record label) has had the foresight to record the tune. In keeping with the locked down theme of their latest EP, Second Solution, The Living End have immortalised a rockabilly frenzy, a song which paved the way for Australian popular culture as the UK knows it. Vocalist Chris Cheney tells us why…

“Our drummer, Trav, is the biggest fan ‘cos he’s a little older than us. But really, it’s just a classic song. We wanted Second Solution and Prisoner Of Society to be the feature (tracks) of the EP and I just thought it’d be really cool to do a concept EP, if we could get some artwork that made it look like we’re in a prison and make it a package.”
Their record label, MDS, took the idea a little step further, and hit on the telly tune Prisoner On The Inside as the third track.

Second Solution is the third recorded outing from this young Melbourne rockabilly outfit. Personally, I think that the first, Hellbound, is the best, but their second album, It’s For Your Own Good, produced the song that had the goods for high rotation.
“Everyone though (the album) was a single. From Here On In definitely got that one hit wonder syndrome. For some reason they loved it, they played it to death. It would’ve been great if they picked up something else, but I guess we can’t complain.” Someone once described The Living End to me as Fireballs for the kids. This comparison is a contentious issue for the band.
“We continually get compared to them, which is fair enough because we’ve got the double bass and the whole bit and people just don’t realise that there are a whole lot of other bands like us, but it gets a bit frustrating. At first we got our backs up and went ‘you know, we’re different!’ and got angry, but that’s just the way it goes.”
Surely being compared to The Fireballs though, isn’t such a bad thing. But i suppose we should qualify the differences.
“Basically, we don’t have a metal guitar. They got more into heavy metal overall wheras we got in to mixing rockabilly with punk. We don’t care if we write a ballad and stuff but I don’t think The Fireballs are a ballad kind of band. They’re more ska oriented where we went for the more English approach.
“The early psychobilly bands in the 90’s were from England and mixed a lot of ska and punk and stuff whereas I guess The Fireballs have taken the next step and mixed it with American sounding guitars and stuff.”

Well, they may not reckon they’re anything like The Fireballs but they certainly appeal to the kids. Already down for a second year running on The Push Over bill, they have made appearances on Recovery and been rotated rather heavily on one national youth broadcaster. The second song on their current EP is also one for the kids.
Prisoner Of Society is “supposed to be a 13 year old’s view of his or her surroundings. There’s the line, ‘you’ll see we’re not the enemy, just prisoners of society’. They’re rebelling against everyone telling them what to do. They don’t mean to come off sounding rude or anything, but they do.
Teenagers think the whole world is against them, and it’s about rebelling against that.”

As to how and why the jailhouse theme emerged in the first place, perhaps we can look to the notes made by bass player, Scott, for the preface to the EP’s press pack, “prisoner is a good way to describe being ‘one the inside’.”
“Being on the inside to me means not being involved in the mainstream. It’s being forced to live in a cell that you have chosen. We each have our instrument that we have chosen to express the sort of noise we want to make. Feeling like a prisoner of society gives you that insane amount of time to discover the variety of appealing sounds within the instrument. Feeling like a prisoner also drowns out the outside influences so these sounds really come from you. Your second solution.”
Second Solution deals with the goings on of a man on Death Row trying to escape. According to Chris, who penned the lyrics, “Second Solution is purely fictional. Just that whole thing about convicts or something. It’s a nice little story about someone running from the law.”

It’s worth going to a Living End gig just to check out the crowd. Without a doubt there will be a number of die hard rockabillies with hairdos like the five foot cone whittled down to a pin pointed end.
“Those people are just full on. They’re great. They just live for it and it’s awesome. When we play we get rockers, punks and ska people and it all works really well together and that’s what we always want to have; a really mixed crowd.
“[The music] appeals to so many different people. But that’s what it was like back in the 80’s. A lot of punks and stuff could listen to Madness and then they’d listen to The Clash and then they’d listen to the Blue Cats or the Pole Cats or something it really just crosses over.” The band seem to be encouraging a resurgence of this attitude as they tour the country with power pop punksters Bodyjar.
But they’ll always be keeping that rockabilly subculture alive.
“I know guys who don’t buy anything [that was made] after 1955. The underwear and the whole bit.”

The Living End play with Bodyjar as part of the Nervous Wreckage tour on Friday September 26th at The Corner Hotel; September 27th at the Barwon Club, Geelong; September 28th at The Corner Hotel (all ages). The Living End’s EP is out now through MDS.