Living End’s New Roll On Proves Punk’s Still Alive
Author: John Thomason
The Living End: Roll On (Atlantic)
When you’re flipping through the CD racks and come across Roll On from Australia natives the Living End, give it a listen. You’ll be missing out on a rare feat if you chalk up the band’s second album as another trendy MTV punk band.
The Living End goes where not many bands in the punk scene have gone since Bad Religion’s mid-1990s break- through with Atlantic Records. The Living End manages to provide thought-provoking and innovative punk on a major label – who woulda thunk it?
The Aussie trio fuses street punk, rockabilly and metal, sugarcoated with catchy melodies. As unique as this hybrid sounds, the band’s many influences are obvious. But instead of the Living End sounding like a rehashed version of prominent bands of the past, the group is a refreshing and one-of-a-kind amalgamation of 25 years of punk.
No two songs sound alike, and the production quality is crisp and sonically ear-aweing. Rare albums like this prove major labels aren’t always a punk rock faux pas.
Trying to pinpoint the Living End’s sound is like trying to find the most annoying MTV VJ-there are just too many options.
On the one hand, there are obvious similarities to the Clash. Many of the Living End’s songs deal with social/political angst and center around rebellion and overpowering government – Prisoner of Society, Revolution Regained, Silent Victory, Riot on Broadway. Also like the Clash they sing about the sordid state of politics, yet fully support capitalism by releasing their record on a major label. The only thing they lack is the Clash’s tongue-in-cheek humor. Both bands go beyond the realm of three-chord punk and add zest and uniqueness to each song – they aren’t afraid to experiment, slipping in and out of more genres than a Robert De Niro movie marathon. The Living End could be deemed a modern-day Clash if it weren’t for the equally prominent Green Day influences. The band that has seemingly influenced every punker with an electric guitar and a dream for the last decade has also influenced the more mainstream, radio-friendly side of the Living End. Dirty Man is filled with choppy guitars and breathtaking hooks, and Pictures in the Mirror has more sweet harmonies than Green Day at its finest. It’s the accents that match up the most, however. The Australian twang is oddly but strongly reminiscent of Billie Joe Armstrong’s phony wannabe vocals.
And beyond that, it’s anything goes. Uncle Harry is just a fast, loud, barroom-friendly ditty in the obvious vein of the Dropkick Murphys.
Then there’s Carry Me Home – this song just ROCKS. It’ll lighten up any dead mosh pit, and the metallic, grinding riffs would impress everyone from Dave Mustaine to Henry Rollins. The best track on the CD is a polished piece of post-punk aggression that could have been taken right from a Fugazi recording, Don’t Shut the Gate.
If Living End is forgotten in a few months, it’s probably fitting. The message is too strong, and frankly the group is too talented for MTV and the radio.