Back in November 1999 was the last time the Living End came to Tasmania for a headlining show and that also happen to be my first ever gig, so TLE have always had a special place in my heart.
Me and the crew rocked up to the Albert Hall thirty minutes after the doors were meant to open and then waited and hour to enter the building, in which time we missed the whole performance by local supports the Reactions.
We did get to see End Of Fashion though, who were great as always; a lot of people were disappointed with them which I couldn’t understand. I thought their new material was great as was their stage show; only problem was the poor lighting.
After a bit of a wait, the Living End stormed onto the stage and belted out the first track “Till The End” from their album “State Of Emergency”. It was mostly a greatest hits set which was what most people I knew wanted to see.
All the classics including “Second Solution”, “Roll On” and newer tracks like “Long Live The Weekend”, “What’s On Your Radio?” were aired. The band closed with their huge hit from 1997 “Prisoner Of Society” which had the whole floor going off its face.
The band’s encore started with the classic, rarely played “Uncle Harry”, into the newer track “Wake Up” and then the classic “West End Riot”.
The Living End was the best I’ve ever seen them play.
I liked them better when they were turning your youthful rebellion into Coke commercials. This story of adultery and marital distress is just plain silly, with shades of Shannon Noll in the verse and a chorus too cheap even for the Lords of Hooktown. The central idea that nothing lasts forever is just about in tune with the trite teen cynicism of their audience, however, and the guitars pound like they should. Write a marching tune and the kids will march: so goes the conventional wisdom of The Living End. And you can’t argue with them, because they sell a lot of records. So they must be good.
They’ve increasingly got it down to a formula, but one they do so very well. Throw in the other great Australian band cliche: they’re better live. In another nod to local tradition, they present the always suitable for singing along, bitch about the boss while waiting the 48 hours of 48 thrills to come. The Friday on their collective mind comes with some working class angst that will occur more as the AWA’s start clutching at your balls, and this will make a good soundtrack for ACTU protest marches. If those smug pricks in Canberra will still let us have them.
The Living End, how much does thee rock? With the opening songs, we could count the ways; There’s the rapid-fire punk of Second Solution, the Reggae-infused I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got, and the pop-rock perfection of Who’s Gonna Save Us?
There’s no mistaking how much this city loves TLE, and in a venue the size of Festival Hall, the home-crowd vibe is a very tangible thing. For Save The Day, Chris had only just finished asking for his fellow Melbournians’ vocal support, (because of his sore throat) when, about five seconds into the song, the PA cut out. Sure enough, in a beautifully symbolic gesture, the crowd swelled in over the band’s monitors with vocals that, if they didn’t literally save the day, certainly saved the song!
The instant punk classics of TLE;s debut album are still, and will probably always be, their biggest crowd-shakers. But the latest string the band has added to its bow – the ability to write politically charged slow-burners – has really added a depth of passion to their live set, making it more than just a mosh-fest.
The addition of the Hunters & Collectors horn section for One Step Behind and No Way Out generated enough intensity to at least temporarily stop any pining for the loss of Midnight Oil.
Though their set was entirely bereft of weak points, the band can actually take more pride in what was left out – One Said To The Other, Pictures In The Mirror and others – than what was included. For it means there are now so many hits in TLE’s catalogue that even a 100-minute set cannot accommodate them all!
Even putting aside their astounding musicianship, (showcased tonight with an awesome rockabilly jam) there are few bands more on the pulse of the common punter – their humour, hopes and frustrations – than TLE. After pounding to a close with blue-collar anthems old and new (Long Live The Weekend and Roll On), with a little segue into gleefully vulgar ockerism (Uncle Harry), it was revealed they finally had a lighters-in-the-air number in their repertoire with the smouldering encore of Wake Up.
For this song, the projector screen displayed the words; “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth is an act of revolution – George Orwell” Well, the truth as I see it is that The Living End are Melbourne’s finest rock export, bar none.
The Living End Gyroscope Hordern Pavillion, Entertainment Precinct 12/05/06
Guitars played above heads; a punchy barrage of noise and a sea of jostling, swirling bodies, Perth four-piece Gyroscope united a few thousand individuals into a cohesive crowd with moody and often raucus guitar-driven rock. Whilst singer and guitarist Daniel Saunders apparently suffered with a broken hand, he lead the band with a tight and aggressive set including a riff-heavy version of Fast Girl. It’s understandably loud and full of energy, an irresistible invitation to pay attention.
For over 10 years Melbourne three-piece The Living End has rocked stages around the country armed with only a guitar, double bass, drum-kit and noggins crammed with rockabilly party tunes. Their shows are legendary. This reviewer remembers his first-ever live show – a Living End concert at the Enmore in the mid-nineties. Afraid that we’d end up squashed like gum to the floor in the mosh pit, a schoolmate’s parents booked tickets for the Enmore balcony. Although feeling a little cheated by being able to see the action but not actually participate, the gig still remains one of my most memorable live experiences.
And tonight, a new generation of young fans melded with the old inside a toasty Hordern Pavilion. Many things haven’t changed. Scott Owen still pulls off his trick of simultaneously playing the double bass whilst precariously balancing off the side of it. And Chris Cheney is simply an amazing guitarist as he cockily struts across the stage, dropping infinite solos.
Members of the three-piece horn section from Hunters and Collectors joined the Living End on a number of occasions through the set. At times the horns are masked behind Andy Strachan’s hard-hitting percussion. Yet when the band’s volume drops and the horns are allowed their own solo – such in One Step Behind – they offer a poignant contrast to the Living End’s normal forceful sound.
All Torn Down, dedicated to live music venues that have closed their doors over the years, insights and immaculate guitar and bass battle between Cheney and Owen. They stand face-to-face and take turns playing solos, eventually increasing the tempo and uniting in a convoluted wall of bass and guitar noise. Then there’s moody bass and a percussive thump of Wake Up off the band’s album of this year, State Of Emergency. As on the album, the song grows with volume and energy, with voices from the room eventually chanting the chorus behind Cheney’s own voice.
Naturally, hits such as Prisoner Of Society and Second Solution appear in the set. It hardly would have mattered if they didn’t. With or without the hits, The Living End is simply an addictive live band.
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.
The latest offering from The Living End, State Of Emergency is perhaps their most accomplished yet with a new maturity and diversity to accompany their familiar and uniquely identifiable sound. There are not as many frenzied moments in that speeded-up-rockabilly method though it is still employed (and successfully), in the first single ‘What’s On Your Radio’ as on previous works, and in its place is a more polished pop-rock feel with a range of melodies and tempos. The catchy hooklines are still there, and there’s plenty of punk power remaining but the lyrics create stories in an ‘All Torn Down’ fashion more often than on earlier albums. The successful combination of garage rock with great pop sensibilities and a touch of ska brings to mind the joy of the first two Australian Crawl albums. Every song is enjoyable but among the highlights are ‘Long Live The Weekend’, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘One Step Behind’ and ‘Order Of The Day’ as well as the powerful title cut and the opening track ‘Till The End’. Perhaps the band feels this is the start of a new chapter in the their history after the era-closing compilation released last year.
The Living End are moving on from a disappointing album the best way possible – recording a new one. “It’s probably good that we made Modern ARTillery, because we didn’t want to make another album like it”, they tell Tom Hawking.
It’s ten years since Prisoner Of Society brought The Living End to the nation’s attention. They’ve enjoyed a virtually unbroken run of success since, but the muted reaction to their previous album Modern ARTillery suggested that their momentum might have been failing at last. Singer/guitarist Chris Cheney has since said that he and his band weren’t particularly happy with Modern ARTillery and as such, the band’s new record State Of Emergency represents something of a crossroads for them and a chance to set things right.
At first listen, State Of Emergency is certainly a more accomplished-sounding album than its predecessor. It sounds like The Living End are again comfortable with what they’re doing and sitting down in a Chapel St cafe with all three members of The Living End, I wonder how they feel about State Of Emergency in comparison to its predecessor. Did the problems with Modern ARTillery contribute to a different approach with its follow-up?
Cheney seems happy to act as the band’s spokesman, his bandmates Scott Owen and Andy Strachan contributing the occasional nod of agreement or brief comment. About Modern ARTillery, the singer says, “An album is always an extension of where you’re at when you record it and I think for some reason that… Well we thought at the time and still think, that Modern ARTillery had really good songs on it. I just don’t think they were executed as well as they could have been and that was to do with us being in a weird spot at the time. Also, once we got to recording it, things got a bit weird with the producer. I just don’t think we were focused on the end result and so we ended up making some bad decisions.”
Conversely, he says, “With this album… well, it’s probably good that we made Modern ARTillery, because we didn’t want to make another album like it. The first thing we always try to do is to make sure we have some really good songs and we felt when we were writing and rehearsing it that we had some of the best songs we’ve ever had/ Then it was a matter of transforming them onto tape, capturing something specail and not losing focus again. With this album we worked harder than I think we ever did before and I think you can hear it.”
State Of Emergency also found The Living End re-engaging the services of producer Nick Launay, who last worked with the band on 2000’s Roll On. Cheney says that working with Launay again was responsible for the band regaining their focus, but only to a degree. “*obscured text* needed to have the material first and to have the three of us in the right frame of mind, playing well and all that sort of stuff. There’s only so much a producer can do – there are some great producers out there who have made shit albums, because if there isn’t a good band and good songs to work with, you can’t really do anything. To me, that’s what the producer should do: they should come in and add to the songs. You shouldn’t be arguing with them about parts, y’know?” He pauses and chuckles. “Which is maybe what we did on Modern ARTillery.”
Still, even with Launay back aboard, the making of State Of Emergency was a drawn-out process. The band were in the studio for several months and looking back, Cheney says, “I don’t know what took so long. I really don’t. There were some songs that changed a lot in recording – we were changing the lyrics, the arrangements, tagging on new intros and end bits, all that sort of thing. It takes hours and hours. And we were going for really good takes – y’know, we’d say ‘Right, we’re finishing at midnight tonight’ and at two or three in the morning we’d be still tracking. Still, we did that because we found we were getting results.”
It’s perhaps this perfectionism that has contributed to the band’s relatively limited output over the years. Four albums in ten years is hardly prolific, especially for a band that work in a genre where their contemporaries tend to churn out an album every year or so. There have of course been well-documented obstacles along the way, Cheney’s near-fatal car crash foremost amongst them, but still – does it frustrate the Living End that they haven’t been more productive?
Cheney sighs ruefully. “We have though! We’ve written so many songs! We’ve always got three songs for b-sides and stuff. So yes, it does bug me at times that we haven’t had more albums. It seems that four albums in ten years isn’t that much and it isn’t. But the thing is that they’ve been successful albums, so we’ve end up touring for two or three years on the one album! It’s a double-edged sword, really – if we didn’t have that we’d be complaining, but at the same time I kinda wish we’d released a lot of the other stuff that we’ve written. I suppose that one day we will. You’re right though – we do spend a lot more time than bands likem say, Rancid. But then, I don’t see us as part of that whole scene at all. For the first album, we got caught up in that scene, but I’ve always seen us as a rock ‘n’ roll band, a band that approaches every song individually, rather than just slamming them out.”
Last year offered something of a respite from the constant touring. What did the band do with their time off? Cheney says, “Well the thing is that when we’re at home, people probably think that we’re having a lot of time off, but really, we rehearse pretty intensely when we’re coming up to do an album. We’re also always involved in the artwork for our t-shirts and all that sort of stuff and it kinda frustrates me a bit because it seems like we don’t play our instruments as much as we used to. It becomes like a business and I think you’ve gotta be careful at times that you still have fun with it and that it doesn’t take over, because there have been times when it has threatened to take over. When we finished school, we were playing every weekend, y’know; playing three or four gigs a week and I kinda forget what that’s like. When we go on tour, we enjoy it a lot because it’s back to doing that, back to just playing music.”
Ten years on, then, has the experience of being in a rock band for a living been everything that The Living End expected? Cheney says, “For me, sometimes it’s been harder than I thought it would be. But you guys” – he indicates his bandmates – “You guys would be the first to say that I make it hard for myself. There’s a business side of it that needs doing and I probably bring a lot of that onto myself. You have this fantasy – you see these popular bands, like U2 or whatever an you think, ;Wow, what a life!’ In reality, though, they’re working damn hard. Equally, we;ve never been afraid of hard work and in the last six months we’ve worked harder than we ever have. But the rewards are better these days than they ever have been ,too. I mean, we get played on the radio, we get to tour the world [and] we’ve got gold records, which we thought we’d never get. You can’t have it both ways.”
State Of Emergency is out now through EMI.
The Living End State Of Emergency
Author: Tom Hawking
When the Living End’s Best Of compilation was released last year, Inpress pondered whether it might signal the beginning of the end for a band who exploded ten years ago into the national consciousness with their double A-side Prisoner Of Society/Second Solution. The relative lack of success of 2003’s Modern ARTillery suggested that the nation’s love affair with the band might be coming to an end, with critics concentrating more on singer/guitarist Chris Cheney’s brush with death in a car crash than on the band’s music.
A listen to State Of Emergency suggests that any reports of The Living End’s demise have been very much exaggerated. It retreats from the airbrushed stylings of its predecessor Modern ARTillery and returns to doing what the band do so well -spiky, melodic, punk-influenced rock ‘n’ roll. While they’ve never painted with quite as broad a musical palette as The Clash, a band from whom they obviously take such a great amount of inspiration, they do maintain a similar commitment to transcending the strict, arbitrary limitations of punk in order to make great rock ‘n’ roll music.
Cheney has always been a great songwriter and there are songs on this record that the likes of Grinspoon would never conceive – cases in point include the wistful Nothing Lasts Forever and the melancholy No Way Out. Wake Up turns its attention to politics, managing to avoid flag-waving, chest beating sloganeering in favour of a mournful chorus that turns its ire on the education system, exhorting listeners to “Wake up to the manipulation/Wake up to the situation“.
Still, it’s in its most rocking moments that this album really shines. Perennial JJJ favourites, there’s plenty on here that should make sure that The Living End extend their unbroken run in the Hottest 100 poll into a tenth year next Australia Day. Long Live The Weekend has ‘radio hit’ written all over it and the likes of We Want More, title track State Of Emergency and first single What’s On Your Radio? have choruses and hooks that should keep mosh pits happy for years to come. All in all, it’s a welcome return for a band who have always been a cut above their snotty skate-punk contemporaries.
The Corner has employed the services of an MC for their series of celebratory gigs who was neither funny nor interesting with her sexual innuendo banter. Thankfully she didn’t go on for too long, we really just wanted her announce the bands and piss off!
I don’t confess to be too familiar with Even’s catalogue nor their live show but they graced the corner stage with a confidence and spirit that you know they have played there before. Casual and content, Even belted tunes from their entire catalogue, the voice and guitar of Even, Ash, playing with gusto and passion. Rock N Roll Saved My Life was the stand-out for me, it’s just a damn fine tune and it sums up what Even are all about, rock ‘n’ roll.
The Living Ed treated us with a great selection of tracks from their ever growing catalogue. From the older tracks, Second Solution, West End Riot and their new tunes like Tabloid Magazine and What’s On Your Radio, the lads ripped through them with energy and precision. The guys also proved to us once again their skills as musicians with spontaneous jams (Psycho Hillbilly Thrash) and extended brekadowns and intros.
You don’t get to see a bands of this caliber in an intimate venue too often, the energy that is expelled by The Living End is sometimes lost in larger venues. Thank you for an awesome night guys and Happy 10th Birthday, The Corner.
The Living End
What do you want for Christmas? Andy Strachan: “Peace, love and understanding.”
What’s your favourite Christmas song? “The Little Drummer Boy.”
What would you give John Howard for Christmas? “An eyebrow trimmer.”
What’s your favourite Christmas memory? “Backyard cricket after a few too many…”
Complete this sentence: ‘Christmas comes but once a year…’ “…So eat lots of turkey and drink lots of beer.”