I was in Adelaide, Australia, wandering the streets and trying to work off a hangover. The flashing lights and bustle of Christmas shopping teamed with Australia’s blazing heat did little to improve my already poor condition. And the teeth-rattling decibel level was about to increase. As I ambled down the marketplace I was deafened by a sound I could only describe as big.
The sound came from none other than Australian post-punk outfit The Living End. The Melbourne, Australia, trio was promoting its new album Roll On (Reprise Records) to Christmas shoppers with a free concert – a concert played with such passion and precision that I awoke from my alcohol-induced misery as the noise became intoxicating in itself.
Roll On has finally found its way onto American shores, much to punk fans’ delight. The album is reminiscent of a different period of punk rock, but with some modern twists. Members of The Living End cite The Clash and other English bands as their biggest influences, and it is instantly obvious with the first song of the album. The band plays with a bruising guitar style while belting out harmonizing back-up vocals at every possible interval.
The key distinctions between Roll On and a classic like The Clash’s London Calling emerge in two areas – both giving The Living End a slight advantage. One difference is the band’s predilection for more an anthemic variety of punk songs, leaving slower bruisers to other bands. Listeners easily find themselves playing the role of back-up singer on tracks such as “Staring at the Sun” and “Pictures in the Mirror.” The other central characteristic distinguishing the new release from a older English punk albums is the incredible guitar playing ability of Chris Cheney, which can be categorized as simply scorching.
Roll On‘s lyrics tackle a variety of subject matters. While some songs belt out pop-style lyrics that are simply fun in nature, others tackle prevalent issues in Australian society. “Don’t Shut the Gate” offers a political message about the influx of immigrants in Australia, and “Revolution Regained” addresses Australia’s role in the secession of East Timor from Indonesia.
Roll On is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year. It signals the continuing and important role that punk still plays in music, by keeping raw qualities while moving to more mature pursuits.
Fortunately for American audiences, The Living End will join a list of incredible headlining acts on the Vans Warped Tour this summer. If the band plays every date on the tour with the intensity they played to the teenage girls, housewives and the occasional hungover miscreant in a shopping mall, American audiences are in for a treat.
Roll On is in stores now