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.