Hartford Courant

State Of Emergency

Author: Kenneth Partridge

On its first two albums, Australia’s The Living End nearly justified hyperbolic comparisons to Elvis Costello and the Clash, mixing melodic punk, rockabilly and reggae in ways that hadn’t been tried, much less pulled off, in years. 

Then, on 2004’s “Modern Artillery,” the trio ran out of gunpowder. The wide-ranging influences that once gave it character inexplicably disappeared, leaving a forceful yet forgettable pop-punk sound in their place. 

While the group still isn’t back to its fiery neo-greaser ways, “State of Emergency” signals new life. The slick, radio-ready thrash of “Artillery” remains, but this time it feels more like natural evolution than the byproduct of creative exhaustion.

Indeed, the album is anything but lethargic, as ever-riled singer and guitarist Chris Cheney winds up and swings hard at targets such as love, authority and radio. 

On the ambiguous anti-establishment rant “We Want More,” he even steers the band back toward its roots, busting Brian Setzer-lite solos while Scott Owen drives things forward with his upright bass.

Though not quite enough to invoke the holy name of the Clash, the song, like the album, suggests The Living End has rediscovered its originality. All in all, it feels like a victory.

The Living End performs Sunday at the Webster Theatre in Hartford. Information 860-525-5553.