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.

Living & Learning

Author: Zoe Radas

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.

Shift Review

Author: Chris Murray

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

Author: Augustus Welby

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.

The Living End

Author: Kevin Bull

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 Living End

Author: Nick MacKay

The Ending Is The Beginning Repeating
Dew Process

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.

The Living End

Author: Jake Cleland

Dew Process/UMA

Technically, there is nothing wrong with The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating. That’s rare, and you’d assume it’d be high praise. It isn’t. Like a blank sheet of paper or a neat haircut, this album is plenty serviceable and very consistent. However, consistency is one thing but monotony’s another, and the tracks never feel like they’re going anywhere.

Every verse is built with ham-fisted simplicity as if with blocks of Lego, each brick contributing another vaguely activistic call to action. With every lyric frontman Chris Cheney seems to suggest that we’re not happy with the current state of affairs and we’re not gonna take it! If only he could be less than totally ambiguous about what it is we’re unhappy about. Song For The Lonely, the second single from the album, suggests that Cheney is just as confused. It’s a protest song! It’s an anthem about isolation! Now it’s about love! He ticks off the boxes as he goes, making the quintessential record for those who love something to feel political about without having to think too hard. The most interesting bits of the album come courtesy of The Living End’s Australian-ness, as references to miner birds and mum treating New Idea like the Bible are the only thing that set them apart from similarly just-adequate US rock bands. The highlight is the eponymous single, where Cheney’s guitar gallops along to the working class anthem, co-written by Craig Finn of the hyper-literate Brooklyn band The Hold Steady: “We are the tired and weary/We are the restless and bored.” It sounds a little more exciting than the ten tracks preceding it, but it’s still plagued by the same endless vacuity. This is their sixth album and Cheney has apparently found a formula that works for him. Every song is just the same thing, repeating.

Recording The Living End

Author: Ben Preece

The Living End cut their latest album in Byron Bay’s Studio 301 and also Red Door Sounds in Melbourne under the watchful production ears of Atlanta-based producer Nick Didia. SPA’s Ben Preece learned that despite Didia having worked on albums by the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Springsteen, it was singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Cheney who continued to guide the ship the whole way.

“He really shone in the studio and had some good ideas in pre-production working on arrangements,” says Cheney. “But a lot of that still, I feel, is down to me, you know. Like he can only say, ‘That part’s too long there, we need to shorten that,’ and I thought, ‘Well, yeah but the thing is we’ve got most of the chords, which kind of link those sections,’ and he’d be like, ‘Well just take them out.’ I’d be like, ‘Well it doesn’t work if I take them out, you still need to sort of link it up in the right way.’ So that part of it, I thought that was down to me, but in the actual studio, his attention to detail was just fantastic. He was just so tuned in to everyone’s parts they were playing and he had a level of concentration I hadn’t really seen before in a producer. He’d be listening to a playback and he’d be right in the zone and would be making sure as an engineer that every instrument had its own little pocket and he was really big on the idea of not going with the biggest guitar sounds in the world, the biggest drum sounds, you know? It was about finding the place where everything sonically suited so that it fits and creates this canvas of sound. I think sonically it’s our best sounding record.”

The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating

Author: Alex Watts

The Living End has always been a guilty pleasure – something sitting perhaps too-often-played in your library, showing up with disturbing frequency in shuffles, making it onto mix tapes now and then. You wouldn’t tell your friends that you bought it, but you did.

Now they’re back, sneaking into your radio-listening somewhat insidiously. The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, aside from having a deceptively pretentious title, is a solid album. It’s a sparkling representation of what the almost-alternative section of Australian music can do, when they’re not “crafting” bogan-prog.

There’s not a lot of downtime – the title track is an anthemic rock piece, ideal for road trips or that awkward walk home after you split up with your girlfriend. Similarly emotionally wrought are Resist and For Another Day, sprinkled amongst the more laidback (but undeniably rock-heavy) tracks like Universe and Ride The Wave Boy.

Snide remarks aside, this is a good album. The songs have a certain tangibility often missing from Australian pop/rock. There’s a dash of punk, those all-important anthems and just enough lyrical diversity to keep interest across the entire record. The moments when you find yourself singing along are only mildly embarrassing.

The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating isn’t the best album you’ll buy this year, but it’s a lot better than most. Groundbreaking? No. Thrillingly inspiring? Perhaps not. Worth a spin? Definitely.

The Living End

Author: Unknown

The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating
Dew Process

Yeah, it’s still identifiable. The social commentary still in place and a chorus which will see tinnies-a-raised in a thousand festival crushes, but something’s different. Further research discovers it’s cowritten with various of the somewhat likeminded Hold Steady and produced and fiddled with by big name American producers. Chris Cheney’s voice seems a little auto-tuned and everything else sounds a little too ‘right’ as well. Only turds need to be polished this much and the Living End were always a bit better than that.

Singled Out

Author: Clem Bastow

Dew Process

There are some bands that I find myself mildly amused to discover are still functioning these days – which was precisely the response I had to this single, which finds Chris Cheney sounding suspiciously AutoTuned over a fairly generic-sounding commercial rock spin on The Clash’s template (and slightly confusing hints of Klezma, though they may be unintentional and more to do with my current mental state). I wonder what those righteous young Prisoner Of Society lads would think of this?

The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating

Author: Unknown

There’s a political message in the new track from the old men of Australian popabilly The Living End, it’s just not very clear what that is. There’s a lot of vague kind of references about mobilising the disgruntled masses, but for what? No idea. Anyway, the song itself is classic material from the group with a singalong chorus and that big punchy drum thing happening. The recording itself sounds like a million bucks, which is probably how much it cost to make considering the big industry guns that were brought on board to produce and mix it. Fans of the band will no doubt be very excited about the new album of the same title after this teaser.