CD Review: The Living End offers punk-a-billy sound

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The Living End is the most talented punk rock band in existence. The three-piece band of Aussie natives, though incredibly well known in their home country is largely unknown in the U.S. Perhaps it’s because of the group’s unconventional punk-a-billy sound—the result of frantic percussion, upright bass and classic guitar. The Living End is guided by lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Cheney, who seamlessly leads his band mates through 14 tracks on their most recent release, State of Emergency.

A stark departure from current punk and rock trends, The Living End relies on musical precision as well as gripping lyrics. One shouldn’t expect a record filled with broken hearts and lost love, nor should they fear one filled with anger and rage. Instead, count on lyrics that are finely crafted and deliberate; lyrics that tell stories and stir emotions.

Released on Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s Adeline Records, the songs are both sonically diverse as well as mentally stimulating. Pogo-inspiring “We Want More” is followed by “Wake Up,” a haunting track of rebellion that conjures memories of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” with its clever use of a children’s choir. “Long Live the Weekend” is an ode to the working class, while “No Way Out” is a desperate plea for help, asking the question “Will we ever get back home?”

The Living End is a throwback of sorts to the rock-a-billy heyday of bands like The Stray Cats, with Cheney yielding Gretsch guitars not unlike those of Brian Setzer—but with the distinct resonance of the upright bass and frenetic drums adding a unique flavor to the fiercer sound.

To this point, American audiences have not been commercially kind to The Living End. Though this, their fourth U.S. release, is not their finest to date, State of Emergency is still unparalleled in a market overrun with sugary pop-focused punk.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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