The Living End

Antiwar songs by The Living End
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The Living EndChris Cheney - Vocals and guitar
Scott Owen - Upright bass and vocals
Trav Demsey - Drums

The Living End's story is already Australian rock'n'roll folklore. It's an inspirational tale of punk ethos, classic songwriting values and road-hardened live energy striking a blistering chord with a massive audience. No compromise, no prisoners, no worries.

The legacy of the Melbourne trio's phenomenal self-titled 1998 debut are enough to give any band the second album heebie-jeebies: #1 debut, five times platinum, five hit songs (including the double platinum "Prisoner of Society/ Second Solution"), three ARIA awards and a major international record deal.

But ask them about the weight of success, the follow-up blues, and you get blank stares and shrugs for an answer. "The big-arse world tour?" enquires double bass stuntman Scott Owen. "I think it gave us a pretty damn good work ethic. It builds up your stamina, that's for sure."

"We haven't seen any down side to being popular," says guitarist, singer and songwriter Chris Cheney. "I think people know we do everything ourselves, we do what we think is right and it's all about the music. We've never put that second to anything."

Four years before their perceived overnight success, The Living End began proving their point the hard way, with hundreds of sweaty gigs mixing rockabilly style with UK punk attack. Their crude beginnings were captured on a demo version of their 1996 EP, 'Hellbound' that scored them a national support slot with "Green Day".

Their next EP, 'It's For Your Own Good', yielded the first in an unbroken chain of radio hits, "From Here On In". The Living End began conquering stages in a blur of distinguished company: Blink 182, Jebediah, Pennywise, Bodyjar, The Offspring and Grinspoon.

The double-A-sided "Second Solution/ Prisoner Of Society" was where the slow, determined grind turned to sudden platinum. A Top 5 hit and 1998's biggest-selling single, it kicked down the doors for their wildly acclaimed debut album and its subsequent singles, "Save The Day", "All Torn Down" and "West End Riot".

"After all that, people thought we'd disappeared for a while but that's bullshit," says "resident loose cannon" Travis with trademark bluntness. "We just don't brag about how well we're doing overseas.

The Living End toured relentlessly: America and Canada with the Vans Warped extravaganza and as main support for "The Offspring", the UK's prestigious Reading and Leeds Festivals, tonnes of European festivals and two tours of Japan. In between gigs, new songs were bubbling to the surface in fragments that would become ROLL ON.

Stuffed with inspiration after devouring a year's worth of music in the tour bus, the trio's first job was to strip back an avalanche of ideas into 30 demos. "Everyone knows we like The Clash a lot," says Chris, "but one of the reasons is that they did so many different things. There's no point trying to redo what we'd already done."

The band's awe-inspiring live attack is front and centre on ROLL ON, a furious blitzkrieg of styles and moods overseen by legendary English expat Nick Launay. "Nick had seen us live and he was adamant to get that sound down, warts'n'all," says Chris. "You can feel the difference."

"The new thing we brought in was our old Aussie rock heritage," says Scott, "that Midnight Oil, AC/DC, foot-to-the-floor, hard thumpin' rock thing. But the old rockabilly background, '50s and '60s rock'n'roll, punk and ska, '60s and '70s Mod music is still there as much as before."

Launay's stunning rock pedigree - from tea boy on The Jam's Sound Affects to benchmark production jobs with INXS and Midnight Oil - inspired The Living End to new heights. "Look at bands like The Oils," says Chris, "great players, great songs and enormous energy. I think we've got all of that to offer on this one.

"With Nick, it's gotta be right, it's got to be perfect, but you've also got to keep the raw energy there. It's gotta have passion so when people hear it, they believe it. He grew up in the punk scene in England so he knows bullshit when he hears it.

"It's louder in the loud spots, faster in the fast spots and chunkier in the chunky spots. We've gone for some different ideas and I think overall we just nailed the whole thing a lot better." And that, you'll recall, is "a lot better" than the biggest rock debut in Australian history.

From the battering ram assault of the title track to the agitated radio pop of "Pictures In The Mirror" to the stomping rockabilly rhythm of "Riot On Broadway", Roll On covers The Living End's trademark bases early with all guns blazing.

From there, the thoughtful diversion of "Staring At The Light" and slammin' metallic roar of "Carry Me Home" starts defining new ground. Swamp-rock, heavy jazz, shuffling reggae, anthemic choruses and frankly dangerous instrumental trade-offs help define the ground for Chris Cheney's socially inclined lyrics to take root.

The East Timor invasion and Australia's immigration debate are powerfully addressed in "Revolution Regained" and "Don't Shut The Gate". But it's not until "Uncle Harry" brings the roof down in the most raucous and bawdy three minutes of their lives that you fully appreciate where The Living End's legend is destined to rest.

"Look at all the greatest bands in history," says Travis, they're the ones that evolve on each album. If you're a boxer you're always looking to improve on your weak punch. We know our weak spots. There's always room to move ahead."