Sound: A seminal Australian band, The Living End's still going strong after its inception in the 1990's. One of the few bands to remain in the Australian music scene for such a long time whilst making new records, their influence will surely stretch into the next generation of Australian rock.
Originally known for their raw and unforgiving punkabilly, they have grown into a more refined rock sound. Guitarist, singer and main songwriter Chris Cheney may have traded in distortion for overdrive, but don't let a change in sound fool you; their core of writing albums which transcends genres still stays strong. As seen with Scott Owen's thumping double bass and Andy Strachan's measured drum work. Their sixth album, it continues on their renaissance beginning with their previous album "White Noise", but contains more complexity with its musicianship and lyrics.
"In The Morning" gives the listener a light-shining preview to the album, an opening which builds the album up to 40 minutes of unexpected twists and turns. The buildup from the first track is contrasted with the darkness of "Heatwave", and the hard hitting song seems tame compared to the onslaught of the main riff in "Machine Gun".
A complete 180 degree turn comes right after with the emotional "For Another Day" paired with it, an odd pairing. Nevertheless the hope from the song translates into a pop-riddled "Song For The Lonely" which goes along the same theme of hope and change.
"Ride The Wave Boy" is a simple and steady song, a break within the album to let listeners slow things down. While it's a too simple - maybe too simple - its steadiness works well the next song, the politically-charged Resist.
"Away From The City" then pushes the listener back into a more frantic TLE which they all know, with its subject matter working well to wake listeners up. United eases up the momentum with simplistic guitar work, but the combination of thumping bass works very well. Universe though uplifts the album to a more positive note, the last high before the title track pushes the realities of the world with its gun-slinging guitar work.
Like "White Noise", there are seldom guitar solos, but nevertheless Cheney still manages to show off his guitar work with relative ease. Scott Owen's bass seems turned up higher than usual and at the same times works in tandem with the guitar, a step back from his free-flowing and unexpected basslines. Andy Strachan meanwhile uses surgical skill to make the percussion fit perfectly, not minimalist and definitely not showing off. // 7
Lyrics: Compared to their previous works, "The Ending Is Just The Beginning"'s lyrics are simplified in their expressions, but nevertheless provides riveting storytelling without pretentiousness. Whilst they have grown out of their "juvenile" era as seen with their self titled album, main songwriter Chris Cheney still provides catchy lyrics joint together with a perfect melody, albeit a little tired.
Influences from The Jam's breathtaking ability to detail everyday life is encased in the first track "In The Morning". Whilst simple in nature, it hits hard on the realities of suburbia whilst also showing glimpses of Cheney's "jack of all trades, master of none" guitar work.
Heatwave meanwhile deals with Australia's Black Saturday bushfires in early 2009. The band's firsthand account of the destruction is encased in the song with the frantic scenes of the natural disaster pushing listeners around.
"Machine Gun"'s lyrics - even in Cheney's words - are simplistic, instead he lets the ball-grabbing riffs do the talking. Nevertheless, the funk-inspired work lets the lyrics be shouted out with gusto live.
"For Another Day" does its best to conjure emotions of hope through adversity, hope for now. While it does seems tired and cliched, it works perfectly live, the band's main selling point.
"Song For The Lonely" meanwhile works with "For Another Day"'s hope, but this time uses a pop background to push it. While the rhyming seems forced at times, it pushes an urgency for change, a quality definitely needed in these times.
"Ride The Way Boy" is reminiscent of the story in The Who's "Quadrophenia", especially with Jimmy's arrival in Brighton. Another call for change in a mundane life, it slowly grows onto listeners.
Resist jumps straight into the debate on asylum seekers in Australia, a highly contentious issue for locals. It doesn't look into the pros and cons of letting them in, bit it merely decries the lack of sympathy and understanding for their plight.
"Away From The City" then plays into modern society's challenges; city life. The wild life which city-dwellers live in is looked down on, instead a quick getaway from its unpredictability is wanted badly. A winner live.
United then plays on the unity of people, a theme which works well with "Away From The City". Cheney cries out for a change in society, one which works on mutual living, not an individualistic lifestyle. A little repetitive, but still strong live.
"Universe" then aspires to the stars, a perfect allusion to pushing towards personal goals. It attempts to inspire with its simple lyrics, ones which urges to give life a chance.
Lastly, the title track - co-written with The Hold Steady's Craig Finn - hits hard on the rebirth of societal negatives. While the "listing" of lyrics is unrepresentative of Cheney's writing, it works well to point out the recycling of bad habits. // 6
Overall Impression: Compared to their other albums, it definitely hits hard but a sense of tiredness is emerging, especially with Cheney's writing. While there's always hope around the corner for the band's future, this album has potential to grow onto better tings, but falls just short. // 7