State Of Emergency

Author: Kenneth Partridge

On its first two albums, Australia’s The Living End nearly justified hyperbolic comparisons to Elvis Costello and the Clash, mixing melodic punk, rockabilly and reggae in ways that hadn’t been tried, much less pulled off, in years. 

Then, on 2004’s “Modern Artillery,” the trio ran out of gunpowder. The wide-ranging influences that once gave it character inexplicably disappeared, leaving a forceful yet forgettable pop-punk sound in their place. 

While the group still isn’t back to its fiery neo-greaser ways, “State of Emergency” signals new life. The slick, radio-ready thrash of “Artillery” remains, but this time it feels more like natural evolution than the byproduct of creative exhaustion.

Indeed, the album is anything but lethargic, as ever-riled singer and guitarist Chris Cheney winds up and swings hard at targets such as love, authority and radio. 

On the ambiguous anti-establishment rant “We Want More,” he even steers the band back toward its roots, busting Brian Setzer-lite solos while Scott Owen drives things forward with his upright bass.

Though not quite enough to invoke the holy name of the Clash, the song, like the album, suggests The Living End has rediscovered its originality. All in all, it feels like a victory.

The Living End performs Sunday at the Webster Theatre in Hartford. Information 860-525-5553.

State Of Emergency

Author: Paul Nassari

Energetic Australian rock trio The Living End reappears after a few low-profile years top pull its career back into shape.

With one defiant and catchy nu-punk rock anthem after the other, it tore up the charts and scored a slew of fans and it pulls out all the stops here to reclaim its throne.

Slower new single Wake Up riskily bucks the trend. While less exciting than previous singles, its them stay true. Most songs follow the old End tradition with We Want More, One Step Behind and Long Live The Weekend giving past glories a run for their money.

The record is filled with highlights that could fit the soundtrack to many lives like a glove. What’s On Your Radio sounds set for the top of the charts with irresistible hooks galore.

Brimming over with potential singles from start to finish, State Of Emergency is a winner.

State Of Emergency

Author: Craig Mathieson

From the title onwards, the Living End’s fourth studio album celebrates resistance. Resistance to what or whom is unknown, because the trio’s songwriter, vocalist-guitarist Chris Cheney, is such an adroit craftsman that he can package the tenor of the time without giving it substance. Amid the gnarled soundscape of Wake Up he sings of “Suicidal education/ It got sold to our generation/ Wake up to the situation” – in essence just buzz words recast as battle cries. State Of Emergency is as much about Green Day making a record about the war in Iraq as it is about the war itself.

Backed by the first-rate rhythm section of Scott Owen and Andy Strachan, Cheney exudes commitment, whether it’s Long Live The Weekend, a rewrite of the Easybeats’ Friday On My Mind that’s punctuated by a stinging solo, or the accusatory Order Of The Day. But whether the trio is exhorting listeners to riot or party is unclear – it’s enough that they’re both about adrenaline and release because that’s the language the Living End truly speak. The sentiment is interchangeable, and that’s the key to the disc: as much as it is a rallying cry to stand up, it also requires surrender.

If you surrender to it, then State Of Emergency is a rock’n’roll rave-up few can match. From the yelping, insistent opening track ‘Till The End, it sweeps you along, with the blazing single What’s On Your Radio? and amped rockabilly of Black Cat to the highlight, One Step Behind, where the mood dips and rises. Looking beneath the surface reveals nothing, State Of Emergency is about the journey, not the destination, because the only destination it has in mind is back to track one.

Listen Up: Album Of The Week

Author: Stephen Downie

For years, people were under the misapprehension The Living End were a kind of Stray Cats meets Green Day. In truth, their sound was more rooted in the hard driving rock riffola of bands closer to home. AC/DC and The Angels were always lurking beneath the surface.

On their fourth album The Living End should finally shake the punk monkey from their backs and see them assume their position as the classiest rock act in the country today.

Album opener Till The End explodes from the speakers like a screeching Falcon down Mt Panorama’s Conrod Straight.

The band weren’t happy with the way the previous album, the patchy Modern Artillery sounded. That was due, in part, to an unhappy time spent in an LA studio. But this one, recorded in Byron Bay, is their most complete offering since Roll On.

Long Live The Weekend builds on an upbeat jangle verse to a euphoric chorus. We Want More, with its massive shouty bits, sounds like it could have been recorded on stage at last year’s Splendour In The Grass. Chris Cheney’s fretwork is, as always, frenetic and on big guitar tracks such as Reborn and Black Cat, is more fluid courtesy of their seemingly endless touring cycle.

On What’s On Your Radio Cheney’s guitar licks grab your throat and don’t let go ’til the end. But it’s the brooding, atmospheric tracks No Way Out and the album’s highwater Nothing Lasts Forever which set this band apart from everybody else out there.

At a time when rock is in danger of turning disco, thank God these guys are here to save us.

Living On The Edge

Author: Lauren McMenemy

Think you know The Living End? Prepare to be confounded – and pleasantly surprised. Lauren McMenemy speaks to Chris Cheney.

There’s a certain idea most people have about the Living End. They’ve maybe heard Prisoner Of Society or West End Riot from the early days and pigeonholed the Melbourne trio as a one-dimensional punkabilly band with nothing particularly much to say.

That caricature has been getting to Chris Cheney of late. As far back as its second album, Roll On – produced, like the latest record, State Of Emergency, by Nick Launay – the Living End has been pushing the boundaries of what people think they should do.

And yet still that stereotype persists.

“Mentally and physically we put so much into our music and I don’t like to be seen as one-dimensional,” Cheney bemoans. “A lot of people think of the band as being this punkabilly band, which I think is so narrow minded.

“It’s important for me and it’s important for the life of the band that we can show different sides and show that we can actually pull it off, which I think we’ve done on this album. Perhaps we didn’t as much on the last one (Modern Artillery), but I think this album has nailed a few of those things we were reaching for and didn’t quite achieve.

“For me it’s important to actually blow people away.”

State Of Emergency is set to do just that. Anyone who has dismissed the Living End as a mere cartoon will literally be blown away by this record, a fully realised, considered and consistent fourth album from one of Australia’s best.

“That should probably be in block letters at the top of the article: ‘Shock, horror, Chris Cheney is happy with album’,” Cheney, notoriously hard on his work, laughs.

“I think that it’s taken a lot to get it to this point but was well worth it. It almost killed us in the process. It was really difficult a lot of the time and we gave it everything we could and we got sick and we ended up having to do most of the artwork and stuff ourselves.

“It’s been a labour of love, and I think because of that reason we look back and go ‘wow’. It’s really an achievement and we made sure we got everything right.”

The trick, it seems, was re-teaming with Launay. That allowed the band the time and opportunity to fully explore their ideas – stretching from a children’s choir at the end of latest single Wake Up to the addition of horns on some tracks.

“I think people have a cliché of this band as being all fast and punky and gung-ho and everything, but I think there’s also a side, on every album, to the band that has dabbled in slower songs and layered parts and more interesting stuff than just three-chord punk rock,” Cheney says.

“We tried to just further that this time.”

One-dimensional punkabilly this is not.

“We just tried not to settle for second best every step of the way, as far back as even just me writing the songs,” Cheney says. “I don’t ever want to get to the point of ‘oh, that’s not good enough’, because it just doesn’t work.

“I don’t think there’s any room for laziness, and we were really adamant this time to make sure every step of the way was done properly.

“When it came to actually recording, we would track a song until we were bleeding. If that’s what it took, that’s what we would do. And I think you can hear the results on there.

“And I just feel that it was worth it. It took its toll on the band, that’s for sure. But now we can all sit back and just really feel proud of it.

“We’re so passionate about music and about what we do that I think we couldn’t fake it if we tried. Hopefully, that comes across flaws and all. And that’s fine, because that means it’s more human and has got more heart.”

State Of Emergency (EMI) is out now.

Art Of The State

Author: Lauren McMenemy

Forget all that has come before, and everything that has been said. State Of Emergency is The Living End’s finest hour. Almost as if the release of its singles collection gave it the freedom to move on, Emergency has the End taking the music to the next level.

It’s got the polish of Roll On, the energy of everything the Living End has ever put on record and, of course, the anthems. But Emergency is guaranteed to silence those critics who call the band one-dimensional. Take Wake Up for example: the addition of a children’s choir gives the track that extra haunting quality. And the horns – my goodness, the horns. Remember when Midnight Oil added horns to Power & The Passion, or the Saints did it with Know Your Product? You get that same feeling from One Step Behind – that chill goes up your spine and you’re completely in the moment. And there’s plenty of those moments on State Of Emergency. It’s completely inspiring, and a sign The Living End really is the best Australian band of its generation.