Reno Gazette

The Living End

Author: Jason Kellner

It’s time to put your rock ’n’ roll knowledge to the test: Name the Australian act with the biggest-selling debut album in Australian history.
Was your answer AC/DC, Midnight Oil, INXS or perhaps even newcomers Jet? No vegemite for you.

While relatively unknown here in the United States, The Living End set that debut sales record at the close of the 1990s. The band is hoping to meet some new American fans when it heads out on a tour that stops March 6 at the New Oasis in Sparks.

“It sort of exploded here bigger than we ever expected,” said singer-guitarist Chris Cheney in an interview from home in Melbourne, Australia. “Without sounding like Dr. Evil and wanting world domination, I hope we can get a little bit of that (success) somewhere else. It’d be nice to think there’s more appeal to the band than just in Australia.”

The Living End will have the chance to prove themselves when they head out on the road with fellow countrymen The Vines and Jet in March (that tour starts next week, while the Living End plays Sparks with two different bands).

Given that list of tour mates, it should be noted that The Living End has little in common with them musically. What started out as a rockabilly-punk band in the mid-1990s, something akin to the Stray Cats, evolved into a UK-styled punk-rock band more like The Clash. All that remains of the band’s rockabilly days are the instruments (a stand-up bass and hollow-body electric guitar) and the occasional barnburner. Some rock scribes can’t get past labeling the band rockabilly.

“I really think it’s lazy journalism,” Cheney said. “Obviously, rockabilly is the foundation. We grew up listening to it and we like the look and energy of that music, but that’s as far as it goes now. We don’t play any 12-bar blues songs and we don’t sing about hotrods and cheeseburgers. The only influence we draw from the ’50s now is maybe a bit of the fashion. But we draw just as much from the late ’70s and early ’80s new wave and punk.”

Musically, Cheney said, The Living End was influenced by acts like AC/DC, The Clash and Led Zeppelin.

“And lyrically, probably Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg — politically tinged stuff, I suppose,” Cheney said. “I try not to go down that road too much. I try not to be preachy. I like to point out an issue, but I try to stay clear of taking a definite side. I don’t like being preached to myself. I don’t like the words to overshadow the music.”

With so much care finding the perfect hook for a song, there’s a lot to like on The Living End’s third album “Modern Artillery,” which was released this week on the Reprise label.

“I like people to get the feeling for the hook in the song,” Cheney said. “To me, that’s the main priority other than the lyrics.”

Back in 2001, The Living End gained some exposure opening for Green Day. In June, the band plays on another high-profile tour with Blink-182 and No Doubt.

“We’ve built up a bit of a club following in the U.S. and we’ll try to focus on that this year,” Cheney said. “That’s the thing, to try and get out in front of people again. I think that’s what sells this band better than anything.”