Living End Pumps Punk Into New CD

Author: Ian Ragsdale

The Living End
MODERN ARTillery

(Reprise)

You’re too late to see The Living End, who passed through Houston March 11, headlining at the Engine Room supported by fellow Australian acts The Vines, Jet and Neon. But you can still pick up its new, solid album, MODERN ARTillery, if you feel the 70’s rock revival acts are a little too plain for your tastes. The Living End has mellowed a lot since its punk-rockabilly debut EP, 1995’s Hellbound, but the stadium punk this trio pumps out is energetic enough for rockers yet radio-friendly for the Top 40 crowd.

It feels like a betrayal to use the word “punk” to describe the music of any band that went five times platinum with its debut album, that had a song in the National Lampoon’s Van Wilder soundtrack and that has toured Australia with AC/DC, but The Living End retains the edge so apparent in its early music.

Given, MODERN ARTillery has ballads reminiscent of sappy Third Eye Blind tunes, but the band gets in a few good punches in the form of short, fast songs with anthem titles ad hopeless lyrics. When guitarist Chris Cheney and upright bassist Scott Owen sing choruses together, it’s easy to imagine a crowd of rebellious youths raising their fists and chanting along.

What sets The Living End apart from other acts in the same vein is that even when the tempo slows, the band’s musical ability and snappy lyrics shine through. You probably won’t be listening to this record with your sweetie, and there certainly is a shortage of such records today.

Modern Artillery

Author: Sam Vinall

The Living End 
Modern Artillery

When one listens to a record from The Living End, to a certain extent one knows what to expect: brilliant musicianship and songs that make you want to get up and fight. ‘Modern Artillery’ provides this all, with breathtaking guitar solos and The Living End’s trademark early eighties rockabilly style, but ‘Modern Artillery’ is both impressively diverse and, when compared with previous album ‘Roll On’, a lot more straightforward.

‘Modern Artillery’ has already spawned the singles One Said To The Other, the anthemic Who’s Gonna Save Us and the early eighties inspired Tabloid Magazine. These are all great songs, especially Who’s Gonna Save Us, which contains what I believe is probably the best guitar solo on the album (which sounds a little like the solo from Hotel California in the way it’s layered).

There are also a surprising number of ballads like Jimmy, Putting You Down (which, if I might go out on a limb seems to me to have elements of Ween and Rod Stewart. So there), the alt-country-sounding So What, and (what I consider to be the best track) In The End. One comparison I could draw from all of the ballads was to Australian stalwarts You Am I; but for old school fans of The Living End there is still plenty of faster tracks like Hold Up, What Would You Do and End Of The World, so you don’t have to worry.

The Living End – MODERN ARTillery

Author: Lauren McMenemy

The Living End
MODERN ARTillery (EMI)

After singer/guitarist Chris Cheney faced death and won in a car accident, and then founding member Travis Demsey quit just as they were getting back on track, things could have gone pear-shaped for the Living End.

And while, thankfully, things didn’t – with new drummer Andy Strachan moving seamlessly into the fold – that thought seems to dominate much of their third album.

“Will we be remembered?” Cheney asks in Maitland St, while on the epic closer The Room it’s “I wonder if the world is just the same”.

Then there is the one that gets right to the heart of the Living End: “Rising up from the ashes/you know we never meant to burn…”

If their self titled debut was the raw introduction and Roll On its slick, polished sister, MODERN ARTillery is the definitive Living End album. The perfect meld of what has come before, it also has diversity which was needed if the trio was to prove itself still relevant.

There are more melodies among the punkabilly anthems – even a hint of country-influenced steel guitar.

MODERN ARTillery is an impressive outlook from one of the tightest, most inspiring outfits in the country. This is The Living End’s finest hour.

The Living End – Roll On

Author: Unknown

Don’t get me wrong — this Aussie version of “punk” isn’t punk as we know it in the states. It’s more like a commercial stab at punk — an attempt at making punk approachable — sort of a kinder, gentler Rocket From the Crypt.

Or my opinion has been clouded by the fact that they’re a product of Australia, a country that’s brought us such wholesome entertainment staples as Mick Dundee, Men at Work, the 2000 Olympics, Olivia Newton John, Survivor II, AC/DC, Mad Max and those lovable ‘roos. Isn’t punk suppose to be about rebellion, anarchy and anger? How could anyone possibly be angry living in the sun-drenched world of Foster’s Lager and cool, throaty accents that drive chicks mad?

That said, the trio, which includes smooth vocalist Chris Cheney on guitar, Trav Demsey on drums, and Scott Owen on upright bass, knows how to create pop-punk songs that are so ingeniously catchy, hook-filled and downright fun, they’re impossible to resist. Kind of like punk for people who like the idea of punk, but don’t really like to listen to it. Their music has more in common with Def Leppard than the Sex Pistols. We’re talking quick, clean, punk-esque rock, exquisitely produced and played by a trio that’s as tight as a tic and very aware that their strong suit isn’t making a point, but playing hook-filled, sonic fireworks.

Even when try act tough they come off loveable. Though each track seems to start in punk mode, it only takes a few moments before the pop bleeds through. The jumpy “Riot On Broadway” owes a lot to its shout-out chorus; drunk anthem “Carry Me Home” starts off like Wango Tango-era Nugent or early Aerosmith; the chorus on “Dirty Man” would fit right in on a John Wesley Harding CD, while “Silent Victory” sounds like something off Hi and Dry.

What separates this from greasy kids’ stuff like Blink 182 and Pennywise is that these guys have been around a lot longer, and it shows. In other words, you’re not gonna feel embarrassed listening to it in your office, though you might get some strange looks when you can’t help but turn it up.

The Living End

Author: Tom Phalen

The Living End

While Australian retro-rockabilly-punksters the Living End aren’t as cute or funny as Green Day, as politically articulate as The Clash or even as retro- rockabilly as The Stray Cats — all bands they greatly admire — their Foster- sized sense of self coupled with an engagingly innocent social and personal outlook makes them more winning than they might otherwise be.

Still young — guitarist Chris Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Travis Dempsey are all in their mid 20s — they’ve been together almost five years with a couple of EPs and a platinum selling single — the opening track “Prisoner of Society” — released in their homeland. Living End is their American full length debut and it has the comfortable instrumental polish of a band that has bonded. Stylistically they’re rooted in rockabilly, but they make excursions into punk, ska and, in the case of “Bloody Mary,” a song about a girl who slashes her wrists in public to garner attention, the reverberated psychobilly of The Cramps.

Lyrically, they take a working class, i.e. complaining, view of the world, whether it’s the trials of a typical teenager on “Prisoner,” the social separation of the caste system in the “Street Fighting Man”-style of “West End Riot,” or just the tedium of a brutal, dead end job in “I Want A Day.” These are universal gripes and told in simple, near monosyllabic terms. “Well we don’t need no one to tell us what to do,” sings Cheney, “Oh yes we’re on our own and there’s nothing you can do” are Everyman sentiments, and it’s there the band is most convincing.

Where they get in trouble is trying to tackle subjects still beyond their scope. On some, they’re successful. “Second Solution” has the urgency of a death row convict running out of time. “What I want to say is will I die today?” pretty succinctly sums things up. And in “All Torn Down,” which rails against the destruction of hometown landmarks in the name of progress and gentrification, the same also holds true. It isn’t the first time a band has said, “I see the city and it’s grown into a big machine. The streets are freeways and the parks are just a memory,” but here it’s stated concisely.

But “Monday,” the story of the schoolyard massacre in Dunblane, Scotland, is far too similar to The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t like Mondays.” While Cheney’s heart may be in the right place, the comparisons are distracting, and his song lacks the compelling melody and arrangement of Bob Geldof’s chilling portrayal of sociopathic behavior.

However, the instrumental “Closing In,” which finishes the record, exudes nothing but mood and emotion. The simple structure and engaging theme suggest surf guitarist Dick Dale channeling Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite composer Bernard Hermann. It’s meatier than most of what we all heard in Pulp Fiction, and shows real promise and direction.

The Living End might not be all that, but the potential is definitely there.

The Living End – Roll On

Author: Michael Owen-Brown

The Living End
Roll On (EMI)

When did The Living End transform into the heir apparent to AC-DC? The opening riff of Silent Victory sounds more like Acca Dacca than most songs written since Back In Black. It’s just one of a handful of driving hard-rock anthems on this latest album which are totally unexpected. More unexpected is that The Living End pulls off this potentially disastrous experiment with confidence and panache. Roll On is one of the most brash and catchy albums this year. The band’s superb musical abilities – particularly Chris Cheney’s blistering guitar licks – allow it to traverse various styles and tempos. Development in the band’s songwriting since it’s 1998 debut album is immediately noticeable. Perhaps some songs are too cluttered, but the album works brilliantly as a whole.

It’s For Your Own Good

Author: Avalon Sperring

It's For Your Own Good

Following the release earlier this year of their debut CD EP, Melbourne trio The Living End have moved away from relatively straightforward rockabilly punch with this tasty little six track EP. Although doffing collective caps to influences such as The Clash, Stray Cats and even a quick check to Duanne Eddy (check the glorious guitar solo on Problem). The Living End are beginning to define themselves by their own sound.

A feisty mix of tunes means it’s difficult to pin these guys down, which is never a bad thing. They are becoming conversant with melody within grunt, and plaintive qualities seeping through punchy rhythms, particularly on One More Cell, which is a pop/punk tune dependent on its neatly pumped out chord progression and cheesy chorus for effect. From Here On In and Stay Away From Me reflect the rockabilly aspect of The Living End, with the latter jumping straight into a thrash out with gorgeous accents and atypical bassline.

Bass player Scott Owen and singer/guitarist Chris Cheney belt out vocals with more enthusiasm than finesse, but this works within the context of the songs. English Army is a little too obvious in its debt to The Clash, however The Living End have stamped their mark on the groove if not the melody.

Closing with an inventive cover of The Cure’s 10:15 Saturday Night, It’s For Your Own Good is an immediately infectious slice of this band’s energetic approach to a musical meld that can only be described as a rockabilly/ska cross, however they aren’t afraid to throw in a touch of the pop hook, but nevertheless harness power from the urgency of rockabilly more than anything else. Good stuff for a bit of a dance, if you’re that way inclined.

It’s For Your Own Good

Author: Sandro Olivo

It's For Your Own Good

This has been a frantic year for this three piece punk outfit from Melbourne. It released it’s first EP, Hellbound, at the start of the year and then earned the support slot for green haired trendsetters Green Day. So it is no surprise that this CD’s first track, From Here On In, has a distinct similarity to the American band. But that is where all similarities end.
On this second EP, English Army, One More Cell, Stay Away From Me, Problem and 10:15 Saturday Night set themselves apart with the sound embracing all that is punk. Ska and rockabilly are interspersed through the songs which set the head rocking and the feet stomping. The guitars have a harsh resonating sound and Chris Cheney’s vocals are brilliant.

Perhaps Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong could listen and learn. This album is true punkerama.

It’s For Your Own Good

Author: Timothy James

It's For Your Own Good

The Living End have come a long way on their second EP. Where their first release Hellbound lost song quality in sub-standard production, It’s For Your Own Good, produced by Lindsay Gravina, packs brutally honest representation of their live sound – and this sound is most impressive. 
From Here On In and English Army lead the EP admirably. The songs are more well crafted pop than rockabilly, and both tunes come with a chorus you won’t forget in a hurry. Look out for other highlights; see Stay Away From Me complete with its breakneck drumming and minor bass solo, and Problem, that has a booming chorus showcasing Chris Cheney’s distinctive vocal style. 

This EP also comes with a fairly honest take on The Cure’s 10:15 Saturday Night, although this reviewer would have preferred to have seen live favourite Tainted Love make an appearance. To label The Living End as a rockabilly band is lazy and/or uninformed. They have the potential to reach an incredibly wide audience, and on listening to It’s For Your Own Good one gets the feeling that one day Cheney and co. will be scaling even greater heights.

Hellbound Review

Author: Unknown

Hellbound

Punkish rockabilly trio The Living End draw from the look and sound of fifties rockers the likes of Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, and more recent revivalists the Stray Cats. They add to this a hefty shot of punk and end with energetic, fiery, aggressive, pounding sound with loads of charm.

The eight track mini-album, Hellbound is a beauty, packed with gems like the frenzied opener Trace Of Doubt, the surf guitar of the title track, the snotty punk rock of The Living End and the rockabilly shuffle of Strange. Tabletop Show is a gritty plodder with great harmonies, Headlines and Misspent Youth are powerful slices of punk, and the closing tune So Lonely is a fun, boppy rock n’ roller.


The Living End are the sort of band that keeps rock n’ roll fresh, regardless of their derivative nature. It’s the energy and enthusiasm that gets you in, as well as the beat of the drums and the slappin’ double bass, the great guitar work and the strong songs. Brilliant!