The Age

New Beginnings

Author: Michael Dwyer

The Living End have returned from the US – and they’re in no hurry to go back, writes Michael Dwyer.

It’s a wet Wednesday night in Moorooduc, and a long line of parked cars snakes up the highway past the Peninsula Lounge. Inside, the windows are steamed up and the floor is heaving with midweek revelers.

The Living End are on the comeback trail. Again. This is their first show in Victoria after almost a year spent – sometimes misspent – overseas.

Freshly relieved of their US record contract, the Aussie rock phenomenons of ’98 are taking stock with a double DVD and a hits album titled From Here On In: The Singles 1997-2004, and renewed attention to their home base.

The fans’ anticipation is thick in the air, but the atmosphere is nonchalant compared to the electricity in the band room.

Drummer Andy Strachan is wide-eyed and restless. Bassist Scott Owen stands meditatively upright, fingering a sleek grey jacket with broad black lapels.
“Nine bucks from the Salvos in Mentone,” he says. His black shirt and skinny white tie complete the kind of outfit that defines the Living End’s retro-cool edge in a scene replete with skatewear logos.

Minutes before show time, singer-guitarist and songwriter Chris Cheney darts into the room, a blur of spiky black hair, red western embroidery and eyes smudged with mascara – or maybe fear.

Nervous? “Nah,” he says, too dismissive to be convincing.

Any new material tonight? “Yeah,” Owen says with a smirk, again indicating his jacket.

Just the new single, then? “Yeah, just the single, that’s all we’re playing,” Cheney jokes, his sneakers marking time on the carpet. “We’re going back to the package-tour days where you just play one hit and get off.
We tried to get Alan Freed to introduce us, but . . .”

As long as I think we’re making good music, that’s so much more important than the climb. But, yeah, the legendary American DJ who popularised the term “rock’n’roll” 50 years ago has been dead for 40.

The reference is typical of Cheney’s headspace. He may have spent most of ’04 touring America with Jet, the Vines, Blink-182 and No Doubt, but he’ll always feel a stronger affinity with Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. The tragic fate of those pioneers was almost his, too, when he cheated death in a serious car accident on the Great Ocean Road three years ago.

His long recovery is history now, as is the subsequent untimely resignation of drummer Travis Demsey. But the Living End are still chasing the momentum they lost at the bleak end of 2001. And this, as always, is how they do it.