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.