The Living End – Shift

Author: Alexander Darling

(Dew Process/UMA)

Aussie rock has taken a beating this year. The once rock-solid AC/DC are caught in a vicious cycle of lineup changes, and the stigma that the genre’s solely for dads and bikies persists. Aussie rock needs a figurehead – a band forged in pubs, who can reliably combine energetic rockabilly with heavy blues and give it an Australian flavour – and we may have found one in The Living End.

The Melbourne trio’s seventh album is a refreshing return to form after the flirtations with dance beats on 2011’s The Ending is Just the Beginning Repeating. The album is full of reasons to consider them the modern torchbearers for one of Australia’s proudest musical legacies. One of them is Monkey, which sees TLE triumphantly return to their punky origins. Chris Cheney’s guitar barks like a dog from the opening chords, his solo is short and sweet, and Andy Strachan’s pounding drumbeat demands fists be pumped and beers spilt.

Shift showcases TLE’s growth as musicians, notably in their exploration of softer sounds. Keep on Running is a string-laden ballad with deeply introspective lyrics about the inevitability of life and change. The song is no less powerful for the instrumentation, and Cheney’s voice is passionate and believable where it could’ve become clichéd.

Elsewhere, like on the album cover, TLE spread their noise out into the darkness. There’s a storm cloud brewing and a hurricane in my head,” sings Cheney on Up the Junction, and the hostile lyrics and frantic strumming of his reverb-effected guitar are characteristic of the album. Sudden dynamic changes on tracks like Life As We Know It and Death only heighten the sense of danger.

With Shift The Living End take their place alongside Cold Chisel as Aussie pub rockers with a versatile side that people of all ages can get around.