CD Of The Week

Author: James Dawson

THE LIVING END – State Of Emergency – EMI

The Living End have a well founded reputation of being an awesome live act. With their fourth release, State Of Emergency, the band have managed to bring their performance from the stage, and into the studio. And in the process have constructed an album that is powerful, yet not overly aggressive in its delivery.

The first single, What’s On Your Radio?, is similar to some earlier TLE tracks. The song starts with a heavily accented, high pitched guitar riff that sharply explodes into a familiar wall of pure rockabilly noise. Even though it may be derivative of early tracks, it still remains a well written punk song. Focus is on allowing the melody room to breathe, hence giving the song a distinct pop feel. Wake Up, the second single, is essentially and systematically constructed of layers. Beginning with a sole guitar picking out chords, to moving through numerous dynamic crescendos, the song reaches its climax and concludes in a Pink Floyd style sing along with the kids.

Lyrically TLE have continued to write songs for ‘the people’. Long Live The Weekend, is essentially about ‘Workin’ for a man that you don’t understand’, and spending your ‘dough’ and ‘wasting away’, during the working week. The song also features a guitar riff at the beginning of the verses that is beautifully simple, yet brutal. State Of Emergency delves into new territory for TLE, with a strong focus being placed upon perfecting the melodies. Reborn combines the old and new together, welding melody with chant-like vocals. Whilst Order Of The Day is consistent in its barrage of melody, whether it’s displayed in the guitar licks, or Cheney’s layered vocal.

TLE have delivered on an album that will see them known as not only a kick arse live band, but a band that can reproduce it all on CD.

State Of Emergency

Author: Paul Nassari

Energetic Australian rock trio The Living End reappears after a few low-profile years top pull its career back into shape.

With one defiant and catchy nu-punk rock anthem after the other, it tore up the charts and scored a slew of fans and it pulls out all the stops here to reclaim its throne.

Slower new single Wake Up riskily bucks the trend. While less exciting than previous singles, its them stay true. Most songs follow the old End tradition with We Want More, One Step Behind and Long Live The Weekend giving past glories a run for their money.

The record is filled with highlights that could fit the soundtrack to many lives like a glove. What’s On Your Radio sounds set for the top of the charts with irresistible hooks galore.

Brimming over with potential singles from start to finish, State Of Emergency is a winner.

State Of Emergency

Author: Craig Mathieson

From the title onwards, the Living End’s fourth studio album celebrates resistance. Resistance to what or whom is unknown, because the trio’s songwriter, vocalist-guitarist Chris Cheney, is such an adroit craftsman that he can package the tenor of the time without giving it substance. Amid the gnarled soundscape of Wake Up he sings of “Suicidal education/ It got sold to our generation/ Wake up to the situation” – in essence just buzz words recast as battle cries. State Of Emergency is as much about Green Day making a record about the war in Iraq as it is about the war itself.

Backed by the first-rate rhythm section of Scott Owen and Andy Strachan, Cheney exudes commitment, whether it’s Long Live The Weekend, a rewrite of the Easybeats’ Friday On My Mind that’s punctuated by a stinging solo, or the accusatory Order Of The Day. But whether the trio is exhorting listeners to riot or party is unclear – it’s enough that they’re both about adrenaline and release because that’s the language the Living End truly speak. The sentiment is interchangeable, and that’s the key to the disc: as much as it is a rallying cry to stand up, it also requires surrender.

If you surrender to it, then State Of Emergency is a rock’n’roll rave-up few can match. From the yelping, insistent opening track ‘Till The End, it sweeps you along, with the blazing single What’s On Your Radio? and amped rockabilly of Black Cat to the highlight, One Step Behind, where the mood dips and rises. Looking beneath the surface reveals nothing, State Of Emergency is about the journey, not the destination, because the only destination it has in mind is back to track one.

No End In Sight

Author: Scott Adams

Scott Adams (SA) has a bit of a chat with The Living End’s Andy Strachan (AS) about thier latest LP “State of Emergency”…

SA: Hi Andy, how are you?
AS: Bloody good.

SA: Good to hear! We’ve only got a small space in BMA so I won’t keep you very long – just a few questions… first thing… this album, which I think already is my favourite Living End album…
AS: Thank you very much!

SA: That’s alright – I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot today (it’s five in the afternoon)
AS: No, no… you’d be surprised. But I feel that too. I think we all do. I think we’re on to a winner.

SA: Definitely. For me it’s… you’ve still got the recognisable melody there but it’s a harder, more organic sounding album – less pop punk.
AS: Oh, thank God man – that’s exactly what we set out to achieve – that means so much to hear from someone (outside the band) that has heard it! That’s a great thing!

SA: It’s quite ‘British’ sounding to me. I get bits of, um, almost like Squeeze in there, and Madness – were you listening to that sort of stuff while you were writing the album?
AS: Um – look, we’re all very influenced by British music. I love Madness, The Stranglers, The Clash… the list goes on – and Squeeze too! (Squeeze) was a band that we just all went, a couple of years ago, fuck yeah! I remember all that stuff! So yes, there were definitely those influences in there, and the producer we worked with, Nick Launay, is, um, I guess you’d call him a Pom, I don’t know, he lives all over the world…he’s worked with John Lydon… all sorts of interesting people so he brings a feel from that side of the fence. What you’re saying is good to hear man, thank you!

SA: Well, I’m ‘a pom’ from that era – maybe I can hear those things a bit more than other people!
AS: It’s a great thing to hear – I’ll pass all this stuff on!

SA: If you hadn’t have said that and backed me up so conclusively I was going to say that maybe the sound was a reaction to spending so much time in the US on the last record? Were you trying to make a record that didn’t sound like an American sounding record?
AS: Well, yeah. That’s again a very good point. I suppose “Modern ARTillery” turned out completely the opposite to what we anticipated or wanted; because we were so heavily involved with the American record label we listened to them too much. So we worked with an American producer who produces very American sounding records. It was a bad choice… in hindsight.

SA: It’s still a good record though?
AS: Yeah… it’s great, fine, but that’s not what we’re into. We’re into organic sounding records, we’re into playing live as a band and capturing moments on record, whereas (“Modern ARTillery” producer) Mark Trombino was about “let’s record the drums first, and then the bass, the guitar and then I’ll fix it all up with pro tools…” Man, that’s not how to make a record! SA: Sure.
AS: So, again you’re spot on! The whole emphasis on this one was to have
the three of us getting into a room – that’s the only way Nick likes to record. Capturing the band as we play! We use more aggressive sounds, the drum kit doesn’t sound like a synthesizer – it breathes! There are ugly notes on there… and a nastiness to it that you don’t get through the modern techniques. And that’s exactly what we were going for.

SA: There’s a line in your press release that came with the record, where Scott says you were surprised by the amount of kids that came out on the last tour… do you think they’ll be frightened off by the sound of this release? Because it doesn’t sound like anything else they’re hearing at the moment?
AS: I seriously hope not. I guess there’s always that chance but… (lead off )‘What’s On Your Radio’ has got a great reaction so far, the kids seem to like that – going by those reactions I think we’re pretty safe in assuming that they’ll at least listen to it… which is all we can ask! But Scott’s right, there’s a whole new generation of kids coming to shows that we’d like to focus on, do some under age shows. Hopefully they will just give the record a chance – everything you’ve said about the record is spot on, and hopefully other people will agree if they just take the time to think about it the way you have…

SA: If you can get them to see you live, if they see the new songs played live, you won’t have any worries…
AS: Live is our big strength – exactly right again! We’ve just got to play as many bloody shows as we can!

SA: Which brings me to my next question – you’re all getting older now, are there any plans to scale down the touring after a decade on the road for the band? Or will this record be toured as hard as the last one?
AS: No. We not the kind of people to sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to be proactive in this industry or you’ll die. People will forget about you… we still get a big kick out of playing live, we’re aware that that’s our strong point, we’ve still got a few good years in us yet!

SA: I ask because it seemed to me that, on the “Best of” compilation DVD interviews, Chris seems a bit weary of the whole thing. At least that’s the way it comes across. Maybe that can be manifested as ‘I don’t want to tour as much as I used to’? Maybe he was interviewed on a bad day…
AS: There are certain points… we spent a long time in America last year, going from shithole to shithole, with a few good shows in between and, more than everything, it’s mentally draining, touring.

SA: Especially when it’s not ‘your tour’? You did a lot of supporting in America…
AS: We did one tour on our own, which was great, but the majority of the time was with other bands, which is fine… at least you’re still playing to people which is the thing. But the industry can get you down. You deal with the political bullshit you have to deal with and play the best shows you can play.

SA: Fair enough!
AS: Yes!

SA: Anything else you’d like to say?
AS: I don’t know! I think it is our best album, I hope people will be surprised, maybe shocked in a few places… there are a few curve balls in there. Give it a chance – go and buy it!

SA: Well I’m off to let the neighbours hear it again now! Thanks a lot, and good luck with the record!
AS: Thanks Scott.

The Living End’s magnificent “State of Emergency” is out now through EMI, kids. Go! Buy!

Listen Up: Album Of The Week

Author: Stephen Downie

For years, people were under the misapprehension The Living End were a kind of Stray Cats meets Green Day. In truth, their sound was more rooted in the hard driving rock riffola of bands closer to home. AC/DC and The Angels were always lurking beneath the surface.

On their fourth album The Living End should finally shake the punk monkey from their backs and see them assume their position as the classiest rock act in the country today.

Album opener Till The End explodes from the speakers like a screeching Falcon down Mt Panorama’s Conrod Straight.

The band weren’t happy with the way the previous album, the patchy Modern Artillery sounded. That was due, in part, to an unhappy time spent in an LA studio. But this one, recorded in Byron Bay, is their most complete offering since Roll On.

Long Live The Weekend builds on an upbeat jangle verse to a euphoric chorus. We Want More, with its massive shouty bits, sounds like it could have been recorded on stage at last year’s Splendour In The Grass. Chris Cheney’s fretwork is, as always, frenetic and on big guitar tracks such as Reborn and Black Cat, is more fluid courtesy of their seemingly endless touring cycle.

On What’s On Your Radio Cheney’s guitar licks grab your throat and don’t let go ’til the end. But it’s the brooding, atmospheric tracks No Way Out and the album’s highwater Nothing Lasts Forever which set this band apart from everybody else out there.

At a time when rock is in danger of turning disco, thank God these guys are here to save us.

Living On The Edge

Author: Lauren McMenemy

Think you know The Living End? Prepare to be confounded – and pleasantly surprised. Lauren McMenemy speaks to Chris Cheney.

There’s a certain idea most people have about the Living End. They’ve maybe heard Prisoner Of Society or West End Riot from the early days and pigeonholed the Melbourne trio as a one-dimensional punkabilly band with nothing particularly much to say.

That caricature has been getting to Chris Cheney of late. As far back as its second album, Roll On – produced, like the latest record, State Of Emergency, by Nick Launay – the Living End has been pushing the boundaries of what people think they should do.

And yet still that stereotype persists.

“Mentally and physically we put so much into our music and I don’t like to be seen as one-dimensional,” Cheney bemoans. “A lot of people think of the band as being this punkabilly band, which I think is so narrow minded.

“It’s important for me and it’s important for the life of the band that we can show different sides and show that we can actually pull it off, which I think we’ve done on this album. Perhaps we didn’t as much on the last one (Modern Artillery), but I think this album has nailed a few of those things we were reaching for and didn’t quite achieve.

“For me it’s important to actually blow people away.”

State Of Emergency is set to do just that. Anyone who has dismissed the Living End as a mere cartoon will literally be blown away by this record, a fully realised, considered and consistent fourth album from one of Australia’s best.

“That should probably be in block letters at the top of the article: ‘Shock, horror, Chris Cheney is happy with album’,” Cheney, notoriously hard on his work, laughs.

“I think that it’s taken a lot to get it to this point but was well worth it. It almost killed us in the process. It was really difficult a lot of the time and we gave it everything we could and we got sick and we ended up having to do most of the artwork and stuff ourselves.

“It’s been a labour of love, and I think because of that reason we look back and go ‘wow’. It’s really an achievement and we made sure we got everything right.”

The trick, it seems, was re-teaming with Launay. That allowed the band the time and opportunity to fully explore their ideas – stretching from a children’s choir at the end of latest single Wake Up to the addition of horns on some tracks.

“I think people have a cliché of this band as being all fast and punky and gung-ho and everything, but I think there’s also a side, on every album, to the band that has dabbled in slower songs and layered parts and more interesting stuff than just three-chord punk rock,” Cheney says.

“We tried to just further that this time.”

One-dimensional punkabilly this is not.

“We just tried not to settle for second best every step of the way, as far back as even just me writing the songs,” Cheney says. “I don’t ever want to get to the point of ‘oh, that’s not good enough’, because it just doesn’t work.

“I don’t think there’s any room for laziness, and we were really adamant this time to make sure every step of the way was done properly.

“When it came to actually recording, we would track a song until we were bleeding. If that’s what it took, that’s what we would do. And I think you can hear the results on there.

“And I just feel that it was worth it. It took its toll on the band, that’s for sure. But now we can all sit back and just really feel proud of it.

“We’re so passionate about music and about what we do that I think we couldn’t fake it if we tried. Hopefully, that comes across flaws and all. And that’s fine, because that means it’s more human and has got more heart.”

State Of Emergency (EMI) is out now.

Art Of The State

Author: Lauren McMenemy

Forget all that has come before, and everything that has been said. State Of Emergency is The Living End’s finest hour. Almost as if the release of its singles collection gave it the freedom to move on, Emergency has the End taking the music to the next level.

It’s got the polish of Roll On, the energy of everything the Living End has ever put on record and, of course, the anthems. But Emergency is guaranteed to silence those critics who call the band one-dimensional. Take Wake Up for example: the addition of a children’s choir gives the track that extra haunting quality. And the horns – my goodness, the horns. Remember when Midnight Oil added horns to Power & The Passion, or the Saints did it with Know Your Product? You get that same feeling from One Step Behind – that chill goes up your spine and you’re completely in the moment. And there’s plenty of those moments on State Of Emergency. It’s completely inspiring, and a sign The Living End really is the best Australian band of its generation.

The Living End

Author: Jesse Shrock

For some bands, the first new album after the mandatory Greatest Hits release (yeah, they called it The Singles, but same diff) can be seen as a crucial step. Is the band still relevant? Do they retain the signature brilliance that won them fame in the first place? Or have they taken bold steps into new musical territory? In the case of The Living End, the answers to all these questions – including both of the last two – is a resounding ‘yes’.

When I interviewed vocalist/guitarist Chris Cheney on the eve of the release of The Singles: ’97 – ‘04 in late 2004, he said his intention from that point was to move forward with a ‘fresh, new sound’. Fifteen months later, sipping mineral water on the terrace of a Prahran café, I remind him of these intentions…

“Did I really say that?” he chortles. “That’s a bit gay, isn’t it?”

It’s characteristic of the extraordinarily high standards that Chris is notorious for holding himself to that his ambition will often clash with his humility in the manner just depicted. But it is thanks to those unyielding high standards that Chris has earned a temporary respite from his insecurities, and can claim, along with band mates Scott Owen (Double Bass) and Andy Strachan (Drums) that he is supremely confident in their latest release, State of Emergency.

“Now that it’s all said and done, I do feel confident about the album,” Chris says, “because I just feel completely drained over it. We gave it everything we could, and we put in all we could, and there’s no regrets. With the last album, we ended up going ‘Hmmm, maybe there’s a few things we could have done differently’. With this one I really feel like we’re as happy as we’re ever going to be, and I think you can hear the results.”

“It was a fucking nightmare, putting ourselves through the nitty gritty of it all…” Andy adds. “All the fine details. We just spent days and weeks and months deliberating. But it paid off because now we can actually feel comfortable about it.”

Chris readily agrees that State of Emergency doesn’t so much represent a ‘fresh new sound’ for the band, but rather a few twists on the old.

“There’s a sound to the band that’s steeped in classic rock and roll that I think works for us,” he says. “And we’d be crazy to mess with that. But I think we’re probably making some new kinds of sounds together arrangement-wise, and the way we’re layering things and stuff like that. We’re wanting to really try and take it somewhere… rather than just having ideas, following through with ideas. If we were going to try something really different to what we’ve done before, to actually pull it off. Do it really, really well. So, that it can be a strong point of the album. Not just ‘oh, that’s an interesting song’, before the next single. With this album, I think that the more different songs could be singles, which is great for us.”

The previous night, I was at a screening for local media writers and presenters of a documentary, entitled How to Make an Album and Influence People, which detailed how The Living End’s original vision for their fourth studio album was warped, compromised and modified in the course of recording and production… and how the final result is ultimately all the better for it.

At the beginning of the film, the band’s intentions are to go into the studio with a bunch of well-rehearsed songs and lay ‘em down to tape, retaining all the sparking edge of their live performances. “I reckon that was us rebelling against (Modern) Artillery,” Scott says of these initial plans, “because that was so well-produced, as far as slickness and neatness goes. We were like ‘####, man. We’ve really got to make a rough and ready-sounding album, because we know we have that in us, and we didn’t do it on Artillery.’ But it just unfolded to the point where we knew it wasn’t going to be that album as soon as we started pre-production.”

As the documentary continues, we see the band re-uniting with Roll On producer Nick Launay and workshopping their selected songs. Though Nick is renowned for his love of live to tape recording, we see a mutual recognition between him and the band that this batch of songs are worthy of something more.

“With the songs that we were choosing as our favourites for the album (we knew) it wasn’t going to be a raw, straight ahead rock and roll album,” Scott says. “It was going to be a more complex kind of thing. And it just kept unfolding and unfolding, to the point where it got horns and kids choir…”

“I think it would be really one-dimensional for us to just go and make an album full of Second Solutions or something like that,” Chris says. “I think other bands do that and they do it well – you’ve got the whole ‘New Rock’ scene. There’s a part of us that does that, but I also think that the reason why songs like Nothing Lasts Forever and Wake Up end up getting written is just that we do that well also. We thought it would be a real shame to stifle that, and go ‘We shouldn’t have songs like that.’ So it was then very easy to say ‘let’s bring in some horns’ and ‘let’s bring in the kids on that part.’ And I’ve always wanted to take it a little bit further and show another side to the band.”

But don’t imagine for a moment that these frills amount to anything more than the equivalent of a few sketches on the solid wall of sound, a racing stripe on the hotted-up car, a ring on the fist punching the air. Indeed, the entire band responds enthusiastically to my suggestion that State of Emergency also represents a return to the anthemic, chant-heavy sound of their earliest work.

“I just like every song to be as powerful as it can be,” Chris says. “Like the end of No Way Out, when it hits with this big kind of climax at the end of the song. If it’s going to be that kind of thing, it’s got to be almost terrifying. I think I just like to have songs which are very visual and larger than life, perhaps. When we have songs that have that anthemic kind of quality, we tend to make them really over the top. Perhaps we just have a knack for doing that with those kinds of songs.”

“That’s just something that we’re really into that kind of works for us – the whole anthemic thing,” Scott says. “All of our songs have a real melodic kind of factor to them. And I guess we still like just shouting out those choruses!”

“We did try and approach every song with the idea that we would play ‘em live for the next two years,” Andy adds.

“I reckon we could go out and play the whole album from start to finish in a live environment, not even consider playing any other songs, and it would still work,” Scott boldly declares. “Obviously we wouldn’t forget about all the other songs, but I would feel 100% confident and happy to do that.”

State of Emergency is out now through EMI. The Living End’s tour will be announced shortly.

State Of Emergency

Author: Christine Sams

State Of Emergency
The Living End (EMI) 7/10

Where would the Living End be without their trademark musical urgency? The opening track ‘Til The End reinforces everything the band does well – including driving bass lines from Scott Owen and striking vocals from Chris Cheney. But it soon becomes evident there is definitely a shifting sound here, with less of a punk rockabilly feel on State Of Emergency and a number of songs projecting a straight-out rock feel. The band’s rock experimentation is at times invigorating and at other times disconcerting, perhaps because the shifting styles don’t give the album a singular identity. But there is intrigue in the renewed emphasis on Cheney’s guitar skills and singing. Cheney’s vocals are deep and sultry on Wake Up – but the song becomes a little uncomfortable when children start singing back-up vocals (a move reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall). The brisk and entertaining Long Live The Weekend sounds like a purposeful anthem, but other tracks, including No Way Out and Nowhere Town, are less predictable.

They’re Slicker, But Not Slower

Author: Scott Podmore

The Living End has been around long enough that one could forgive them if they were to take the foot off the pedal, cruise down easy street for a while and maybe, um, sell out a little.

Some punters already are calling that one – but rest assured, that’s garbage.

The Living End lads have fired up on all cylinders and cranked out a cracker of an album with State Of Emergency, their fourth studio effort.

The energetic three-piece continues a solid work ethic, getting out there and working it (that means doing the smaller gigs). And there’s never been a hint of inflated egos.

Our answer to Green Day in terms of the punk/rockabilly thing, the Melbourne trio has simply broadened its palette a little and incorporated a poppier edge to the artillery. Importantly, the rock ‘n’ roll remains in big doses.

From the word go, it’s too hard to sit still as the album blasts off with stompin’ ‘Til The End, followed by jump-around, sing-it-out-loud Long Live The Weekend.

There’s more where that came from. The picks from an incredibly healthy crop include first single What’s On Your Radio, the Oils-spiced anthem Wake Up, the jazzy-edged Nowhere Town and hook-laden pop-rocker Nothing Lasts Forever.

The Living End has placed it’s faith in producer Nick Launay (Midnight Oil, INXS, Eskimo Joe, Nick Cave, Silverchair…you could go on) to rub his golden touch over this and he nails a slick production on all 14 songs.

While the band’s list of achievements and awards is a sparkling read, the most exciting thing about this album is that it’s their best work yet.

As frontman Chris Cheney says:
“This time, yeah, we’re doing some different things, but it sounds like The Living End doing different things, not like The Living End trying to sound like a different band.”

Damn right, Mr Cheney – this State Of Emergency is to die for.

State Of Emergency

Author: Jesse Shrock

The Living End
State Of Emergency

After the more polished and often slower-paced affair that was Modern Artillery, many critics hailed what they regarded as the ‘maturing’ of The Living End’s sound. While more than satisfied with the offering, a few fans – and, as time went on, the trio themselves – became quietly anxious about the band losing their ‘edge’. Hence, Chris Cheney’s first impulse with the follow-up was to return to the band’s fast and frantic punk roots, with stripped down, live’n’raw production. It was an amiable idea that, much to the album’s benefit, he didn’t regard too religiously.

With Australia’s living connection to the original punk movement Nick Launay (Roll On) back at the helm, the band aimed to make this album an extravaganza of killer live songs, from beginning to end. And they have more than succeeded. Long-time fans will find something instantly recognisable in songs like Long Live the Weekend and We Want More, which hail back to the anthemic, air-punching sound of the band’s debut. Even better, they’ll find this same tight energy in the more clever arrangements of What’s on your Radio and Till the End. It’s punk, yes, but with a layered sophistication that only experienced musicians like The Living End can muster. And after being an unwitting participant in the moshing frenzy that greeted TLE for their Big Day Out stint, I feel a strange mixture of anticipation and dread imagining what will ensue when the title track of this album is unleashed in a live setting. Woah, man.

Live’n’raw is all very well when it’s what the songs call for, but after workshopping their selections for some time, the band wisely decided that some of them were worthy of dressing up. Politically-charged single Wake Up benefits a great deal from a chorus of children joining the rallying cry, while Chris hat-tips Power And The Passion with the big brass rock-out of One Step Behind. Even a bit of pop ambience is allowed in places, both for the uncannily sweet vocal harmonies of No Way Out, which lays the foundation for a sucker-punch of hard-attack angst, and for the mournfully resonant guitar of Nothing Lasts Forever.

After hearing this album, you start to wonder if maybe the more spacious sound of Modern Artillery wasn’t just the band feeling each other out. Drummer Andy Strachan was new to the fold then, and though he proved himself a competent replacement to Travis Demsey, the time he has had to come into his own has really paid dividends. No offence to Travis, but Andy ROCKS. Meanwhile, Chris Cheney’s bag of guitar solo tricks is more generous than ever, and his intuition for when to pull something out of it is perfect. Just listen to his killer fingerwork in final track Into The Red, one last taste of the band in full-throttle mode that left my jaw flapping in the breeze.

It might mean a complete defiance of the laws of physics, but somehow The Living End have managed to create an album that is well-rounded and edgy. In an era of rock music where one must increasingly choose between slick production and pure rocking spirit, this album is a glorious reminder that… YES, we can have both.

For home-grown rock album of 2006, this will be tough to beat.