Wunderbar came together faster than any other The Living End album before and is one of the most raw, conscious, and politically vital records of their career.
Wunderbar came together faster than any other The Living End album before and is one of the most raw, conscious, and politically vital records of their career.
Aussie rockers The Living End have done what they do best on their eighth studio album, Wunderbar – and that is deliver honest-to-goodness, feel it in the gut, head on rock’n’roll.
Recorded in Berlin over a six week period during a series of inspired recording sessions with producer Tobias Kuhn, Wunderbar was assembled faster than any other of the bands’ previous albums.
In what might be one of the best rock records to be released this year, Wunderbar is – put simply – what The Living End are known for. The band have proven they know their niche; it’s what they’re good at, it’s what they’re passionate about, and it’s what has kept hundreds of thousands of fans listening for almost a quarter century.
Taking to social media to celebrate the release, frontman Chris Cheney wrote, “There are many things that can make or break a record – and one thing’s for sure, playing it safe isn’t the answer.
“Berlin was a blind leap, Tobias was a risk, and the Airbnb smelt like piss, but that’s what making rock’n’roll records is all about.”
Sounding as incisive and zestful as they did at their inception, Wunderbar is one of the most concious and politically vital efforts that The Living End have delivered in their career.
Translation coming soon…
The Living End always had a knack for telling hearty tales with attitude and, with 20-something years under their belt, they’ve still got it.
Wunderbar provides us with 11 anthemic bangers that are certainly going to have you on your feet, chanting the words right back – It wouldn’t be a Living End album if you couldn’t imagine belting it out alongside them, and they give you just that.
Wunderbar comes together with a collection of diverse tracks that all align nicely, while still staying consistently true to the band’s roots. It’s uplifting punk-rock.
When The Living End released the first single from Shift, there was a small ‘backlash’ from fans. The defiant slow burn of ‘Keep On Running’ somehow left a bad taste in a few fans’ mouths – did they just hear strings on a Living End record?
Of course, what they wanted was ‘classic’ Living End – fast-paced action with more guitar riffs than you can poke a stick at. The opening tracks on this album hand them all out in a row, ‘One Step’ and ‘Monkey’ laying down frantic energy and deep groves.
What separates The Living End’s seventh album from previous releases is its maturity. Chris Cheney’s songwriting is more personal than ever, evident in the lead single and the grimly named ‘Death’ and ‘Staring Down The Barrel’.
After the initial burst of signature tunes, the charm of this record comes to life as the band spreads its wings. ‘With Enemies Like That’ is best Living End ballad to date, while tracks like ‘Further Away’ and ‘Coma’ expand upon their signature, incorporating sounds from outside their rockabilly-influenced-rock wheelhouse.
Shift is a standout album by one of Australia’s most-loved bands. Long may The Living End reign.
Aussie rock staples The Living End took a dangerous approach when recording their new album — one that resulted in some conflicting feedback at first. Frontman Chris Cheney tells Daniel Cribb all about the “daunting task”.
The Living End have been such a prevalent influence on the Australian music scene since the mid-’90s that it can be a bit hard to believe that frontman Chris Cheney has spent the better part of the past five years living in LA. The shredder fell in love with the US when he flew to New York for three months in 2010 with his family to write the band’s last effort, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, and things took off from there. “After that, we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to try base ourselves overseas for just a couple of years or three years, four years,” Cheney begins from his Californian abode. “It’s sort of still a temporary arrangement; we’re just kind of playing it by ear at this point,” he adds.
There’s no shortage of opportunities over in the States, which is why he’s probably spent so much time there. Regularly taking advantage of the smorgasbord of gigs available at any one time, he caught The Damned at iconic venue The Roxy a few nights earlier. “I actually play in another band, The Jack Tars, over here which has got Captain Sensible from The Damned in it and Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats and Mike Peters from The Alarm, so it’s sort of weird being in a band with those guys when you grew up listening to their music.”
It’s a similar relationship between The Living End and their longtime Aussie heroes Cold Chisel, which sparked the flame that turned into new album Shift. After a studio collaboration in 2014 with Jimmy Barnes, the band joined him around the country for A Day On The Green, which is when their seventh LP came to life through a means completely foreign to them.
“We were doing A Day On The Green and there’s so much time in between — they’re only weekends those things — so we just thought we might as well jump into a studio during that time and just throw some ideas around and not really put any pressure on as far as having to have songs; just get in there and press record, which is a pretty daunting task.
“I’ve always had songs to bring in and we’ve always wanted to be prepared, so there was a certain danger by doing that that it would be a failure and that we would come out with nothing.”
It was because of that creative shake-up that some of the material on the new album is a little different to what fans may be expecting. While upbeat rock number Monkey saw a return to their roots, follow-up single Keep On Running received some mixed reviews from fans on social media. “For The Living End to release a song like Keep On Running, I think a lot of people were just like, ‘What the hell is happening,’” Cheney explains. “It’s just not what you’d expect from us; there’s no solo in the middle, there’s no overly energetic slapping bass. Even though we’ve done lots of things, I think people forget we have a pretty diverse range of tunes and albums over the years.
“There was just an initial kneejerk reaction I think, people wondering what the hell we were doing with a full string section and it’s a very pop kind of melody, but I’m quite proud to go out with a song that people don’texpect. What’s the point of coming out with something that’s just The Living End by numbers, it just doesn’t excited me.”
Gearing up to head home for the band’s first headline run in five years, Cheney cast his eye on local talent as they chose tour supports; a exercise that proved an inspiring process and will see The Living End on their toes as they sweep across the country in June. “I’m really excited by all those bands like The Smith Street Band, Royal Headache and The 131s; they all just seem hungry, edgy and everything that I love and I find it really inspiring.
“I’m sort of making sure I’ve got my shit together for the tour because I know that [support bands Bad//Dreems and The 131s] are going to be forces to be reckoned with. There’s just bands out there that are no bullshit; just laying it down and they’re damn good, they’re not hiding behind anything, it’s just raw rock’n’roll — how it should be.”
It’s been five years between drinks for one of Australian rock’n’roll’s most-loved trios, The Living End.
Having spent their 20-plus years shifting from punky upstarts to veritable A-listers, Shift is just that; a change of direction. The problem is, it’s hard to know which direction that is. The record, while featuring a number of solid moments – see the ballady Keep On Running and sturdy rockby- numbers Up The Junction – lacks any consistency in voice. Occasional guitar flourishes keep things interesting, but opener One Step gets the album off to a very poor start and TLE struggle to right the ship from there.
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.
Instead of returning to rally-cry roots, Chris Cheney mined his personal travails to inform The Living End’s new album, Shift.
The great thing about The Living End is that when they leap into the air, you never have any question about whether they’re going to land. Melodies and rhythms fling outwards but always snap back, like rubber bands (not rubber balls). It’s the pattern in the raw product that’s kind of baked into the trio’s bones, and it’s all the way through new album Shift – even though the release sounds incredibly different from their previous work, and thematically, it’s brand new territory.
“I felt like the more honest and real that the lyrics seemed to be, the better the song was going to be,” says singer and guitarist Chris Cheney. “It just felt like it would be doing a disservice to the songs, I reckon, had we dumbed them down. It’s the warts and all and it can be a bit ugly, but that’s life, huh.”
Cheney and his bandmates Scott Owen (bass) and Andy Strachan (drums) are interested to see how these tracks will grab the minds of listeners, considering the former’s move to the introspective; paradoxically, it could be more inclusive. “We’ve always written in the third person, and weren’t too literal with our lyrics. And I think that’s more isolating,” Cheney says. “We’ve got a lot of these real rally cry, sing-along, anthem tunes, and in a way you almost hand them over to the audience – at some of our gigs, they take the lead vocal. But I really feel like people are going to connect with this album and with the band. They’re going to hear stuff that doesn’t really sound like The Living End.”
Single Keep On Running is acutely moving and hopeful, with minor chords scattered throughout the sweet parts. Cheney says it began as a collaborative session with a mate whose children “get along really well” with the singer’s own offspring. “We’d been saying for months, ‘We should crack a couple of beers and write something together,’ and one day we finally got around to it. It was almost, I don’t know, sort of like talking to our kids: ‘It’s all going to be OK. There’s going to be some pretty heavy times, and you’re going to go through some sh-t, but it will work out.’ Yeah, when everything’s going great, there is that bittersweet thing of, well, for how long, until it turns sour? But I think that’s the beauty of a song like that. You’ve got to just live in the now, don’t you. So yes, it’s our Chariots of Fire. Inspirational moment,” he chuckles.
From the inspirational to the emotive, one particularly stand-out cut is With Enemies Like That. The true quality of Cheney’s voice is baldly laid out in its melodies, and there’s absolutely no leaning on laurels of nostalgia or phony feelings; Cheney’s assertion that this is “an ‘I’ record, not a ‘we’ record” filters through all its parts. Perhaps it comes from the band’s newly discovered, inherent sense of selection. “You’ve just got to find the right perspective,” Cheney says. “For whatever reason, we seem to have a better perspective and a better way of stepping back, looking at the songs and deciding on what they needed. And sometimes that was less,” he explains.
In terms of the catalyst for output, there’s got to be a spark, and sometimes the fiercer the better. “I don’t know many bands that can just get in there and produce greatness without any kind of friction,” Cheney says. “We all butted heads. There were some doozies. We know each other far too well, and that’s the reason you can say, ‘No, you get f-cked.’” An adjudicator came in the form of Woody Annison, long-time friend and live engineer of the band’s shows. “He knows how we want to sound live, and that’s always the initial idea of going into a studio – to try and catch that common energy,” says Cheney. “He was going to be great at being able to say, ‘You’ve done enough takes for that,’ or ‘That part’s fine, don’t squash all the energy out of it by trying to perfect it.’ Because that’s the danger: that you can get it really, really good and then it’s boring. But the only time we were disagreeing on things was because we wanted to find the best result,” he asserts. “And that’s definitely what we got.”
Up The Junction
There’s a totally synchronised breakdown at the heart of this belter, in which drums, guitar, bass and most importantly space are in complete unison. But it’s Cheney’s subtle harmonies and the timbre of his voice, which cuts through everything like a sweet vinegar, which is the kicker.
Staring Down The Barrel
In terms of vocals, this is the most astonishing of the tracks on Shift; were it played to you in isolation, you may not know it’s Cheney at all. His voice has a vibrato which rolls onto a meaner edge while Owen and Strachan provide a relentless, perpetual motion behind the aching lyrics.
Keep On Running
They say that any happy moment is inherently sad, because we’re aware that happiness is ephemeral, like everything else. That poignancy is captured perfectly in gentle oscillations between major and minor chords while Strachan kicks out little off-beat accents on the snare, and chugging strings complement the track’s hopeful feel.
In this cracker, pithy rhyming phrases are spat out, repeated, and spun around to reflect on themselves, and Strachan gallops his sticks ferociously across hi-hat and snare.
With Enemies Like That
Try keeping your willies together while listening to Cheney sing “Remember when there was no wrong or right, just a feeling in the night.” Never mawkish, this is genuine reflection all over.
Twenty-two years of playing seriously intense music (to varying critical and commercial success) hasn’t dampened the torch one molecule.
That unmistakable raw and middle-fingered energy is still front and centre in The Living End’s latest. Except, they’ve dropped the ‘Clash meets Stray Cats’ style pigeonhole; this is instead a dark, angry and furious record dripping with sweat, regret and a pain you have to punch through. Old school Australian rock, modern moods and frank authenticity fall from lead singer Cheney’s lips. Life As We Know It is a highlight amongst solid work that will see ample airplay and deserved success. Nice one!
The Pants Collective is the solo product from Living End drummer Andy Strachan. His first foray into band leading is an accessible listen, but it rarely seems interested in pushing the envelope. This debut EP hews closely to the attitude and aesthetic scope of The Living End, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like the output of Strachan’s day job.
The seven-track release begins with the cartoon-like garage blues of ‘Secrets’, before getting more debauched (and less effective) on chunky rocker ‘It’s Gonna Be Fine’. It gets more interesting when Strachan shifts into gears he’s less familiar with. ‘You’ll Never Know’ dons a hazy ’90s pop-rock visage, while two-faced EP closer ‘Hometown’ evolves from a neo-reggae experiment into a pub rock anthem. Strachan’s voice is by no means laughable, but it’s not a striking feature. Accordingly, nothing of lingering curiosity is said during the set’s 24-minute run time. Nevertheless, Strachan does show promise as a songwriter. These songs would surely benefit from someone with pronounced on-record character revving them up.
Similar to how films that don’t require particular patience or attention to detail are the most suitable for in-flight viewing, this is easy to digest, but it mightn’t have you raving to your friends at journey’s end.
National Art School, Sydney
Tuesday, July 19
On a miserable, wet, midweek evening, The Living End gave their fanclub and a few select media types a preview of The End Is Just The Beginning Repeating, three days before its release. Within the confines of a small sandstone building, a crowd of no more than 150 lucky people witnessed what was essentially a club gig, by a band that outgrew this size stage many years ago.
The night was being filmed for a Youtube session, which added a sense of exclusivity, counting in the start of the gig when the stream went live. As expected, the set list was dominated by the new release, featuring eight of its 11 tracks and beginning with the album’s first three songs ‘In The Morning’, ‘Heatwave’ and ‘Machine Gun’.
This new material is classic Living End, with a number of songs destined to become live staples. A unique chance to see The Living End back on a small stage, heralding great things for their performance at Fat As Butter in October.
The Ending Is The Beginning Repeating
The Living End have long been one of Australia’s most loved bands, but they have one undeniable failing – all of their records sound very similar. That’s not to say The End is just the Beginning Repeating is not a quality release. It is: Chris Cheney’s frantic guitar work is technically brilliant and the songs run the gamut from pile-driving ballads (‘United’) to pile-driving rockers (‘Machine Gun’). Even a promising collaboration with The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn (resulting in title-track ‘The Ending is just the Beginning Repeating’) couldn’t get TLE to stray from the radio-ready punk rock they are known and loved for. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess.