The Living End

Author: Chuck Eddy

It’s for Your Own Good/Hellbound (Reprise) Second Solution/Prisoner of Society (Rapido Australian import EP)

Like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Angel City. Midnight Oil and Celibate Rifles before them, tuneful greasechain rockers the Living End are being thrust into U.S. stores after having first achieved stardom Down Under. The pompadour-punk Teddy-boy power trio from Melbourne plays paradoxically pretty music, dragstrip-fast, with Chris Cheney’s surfabilly guitar zoom hanging ten all over, combing the wild frontier into a horseshoed spaghetti-Western clip-clop. Scott Owen’s double-bass lines dabble in reggae, honkytonk and fingersnappy Mack-the-Knife-tossing-bloodstained-evidence-off-the-pier-early-on-a-foggy-Sunday-morning jazzercize. There’s Green Day in the whines, Clash in the shouts, and the singing gets tart and taut toward ends of lines.

As wordslingers, the Living End aren’t much better than functional, but that doesn’t matter somehow. In “Headlines,” they tear up Sunday papers like Joe Jackson, but mainly their songs are just frames for Cheney to make creative noise. Drums wax martial and harmonies turn into rugby yells about the English army, but no political message comes through, so you never quite figure out what the war is about. With aces of spades, eight balls, dice and fingerprints on their CD covers, and references to streetlights and guilty verdicts, and with two of the songs on their most recently released EP having the word prisoner in their titles, you know they want us to believe they’re ramblin’, gamblin’ men, bom to lose. But not even the more legitimately adolescent sentiment “I’m a brat, and I know everything/And I talk back because I’m not listening to anything you say” comes close to convincing you these kids are really dangerous – sounds more like they learned about juvenile delinquency from ’60s sitcoms and stumbled into their rapid tempos while running away from scarier schoolmates. But since when has being a phony punk ever stopped smart rock & roll boys from bloodying noses? 

The Living End’s American CD debut – as playable a hard-rock album as I’ve heard all year – combines their Hellbound EP, out in Oz in January 1996, with the slightly power-poppish It’s for Your Own Good EP from November of the same year. Current drummer Travis Demsey joined in time for September 1997’s Second Solution/Prisoner of Society EP, still unavailable stateside. An album of new material hits our shores early next year.