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When playing video games I often stumble across some songs that I like, especially now a days where licensed music has almost become the normal thing, no longer is 8 bit music good enough for games. When it comes to games with great songs, the Tony Hawk series has arguably had the best music of any series of games out there, ranging from the massive songs like "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead and "TNT" by AC/DC to the lesser well known tracks like "96 Quite Bitter Beings" by Camp Kill Yourself and the excellent "End of the World" by The Living End. It was this final song that caused me to show a slight interests in the band, though I had felt that I would only be disappointed if I actually went out of my way and got some of their albums. Despite this I did end up buying "State Of Emergency" when Fat Bob (it's a stall's name, not some poor bloke that everyone picks on) was selling it. Sadly the album proved that the band we're a one hit wonder but were a brilliant pop punk band (yes I know that statement seems like an oxymoron), "State Of Emergency" was nothing short of mind blowing, sensational and nigh on perfect. So today and feeling like I wanted some new albums I went to amazon and bought some MP3 albums including the album "End of the World" was from. Modern Artillery.
So who are "The Living End you may be asking yourself, well maybe if you live outside of Australia where the band appear to be huge. They are a 3 piece from Melbourne lead by Chris Cheney (Vocals and Guitar) and backed by Scott Owen (Double Bass and Backing Vocals) and Andy Strachan (Drums). Formed in 1994 they got their big break by getting in contact with Billy Joe Armstrong (of Greenday Fame) who helped the band by offering them a spot supporting Greenday in an Australian Tour.
The current line up was settled on after the band went through a series of drummers most famously Travis Dempsey who left in 2002 before being replaced by Strachan.
In their homeland they are a rather huge band, with their 5 albums each going platinum or better in their homeland, and have won a string of Australian music awards such as the Jack Awards, ARIA and have had huge chart success.
So onto "Modern Artillery" which was originally released internationally in 2003 and then in the USA in 2004 (though how international that actual release was is debatable as I've never seen a solid copy of this anywhere). The album was the bands third album behind their 1998 debut (the self titled "The Living End") and 2000's "Roll On". It was followed by the 2006 release "State Of Emergency" and 2008's "White Noise". Though not the most commercially successful of the bands albums it was the album that saw them come back after Dempsey left the band.
The album opens with the short fast and punky sounding "What Would You Do?" a rather strong striking punk sound through out that goes to old skool punk sounds and a bizarre short length of it (83 seconds) means it's a little on the short side however it's a quick kick in the face of the listener who's attention the band get straight away.
One Said to The Other follows and keeps the speed and punk rocking sounds at the start before chilling out in the verses...then the chorus hits you again and the fast exciting punk hits you again. Lyrically it's quite exciting though obviously not the most intelligent it is however banging into your head in the way The Living End probably could be known for. Cheney's vocals as they always do sound amazing and angry yet smooth.
Who's Gonna Save us? Is third and the album keeps to the same form of powerful singing and music over slightly standard seeming lyrics, so far I'm not as big a fan of this album as of the follow up, though the music is similar the lyrics are a little bit disappointing. This track especially seems a little overly repetitive to be totally honest.
End of The World this is one of the greatest songs I've ever heard. The song that got me into the band really takes the album, up a gear or two from the opening chords right through the Cheney's delivery throughout the track, the lyrics and everything. This is exactly what pop punk should be about with clever lyrics telling a story and a chorus that has you hooked, it's not a wonder that the Tony Hawk game (THUG 2) used the track it bleeds punk class and is the sort of kick in the stomach the album maybe needed. Though saying that the album wasn't actually bad it just seemed to be lacking something and this track finds it and then some.
Jimmy had the impossible task of following up pop punk perfection and it tries hard to match it with clever lyrics a good rebellion style to the track and even an anthem like quality with strong guitars and Cheney as he always does delivering vocal perfection. The track lyrically seems to be about politicians lying, bribing and story's and the idea that Jimmy could make it to the top on honesty, though of course he was unable to do it.
Tabloid Magazine is obviously about the tabloids that seemed to lack the passion of real newspaper and are full of "useless information". The song seems to sum up the way they try to push certain people to the edge of breaking down and how people like reading them as they make people feeling better knowing about other folks problems. The song is catchy and toe tapping in the chorus and with one of the better lyrics so far into the album this could well be one of the songs that stands out after a few listens and could explain why it was released as a single in Australia (reaching #66 on the Triple J Hottest 100).
In The End follows up and actually starts a lot slower and softer leaving you a chance to catch your breath after the previous track. The vocals take a totally different turn to the rest of the album through out with repetition of certain words which stand out and allow you to join in with out really knowing the song. The song despite not being particularly slow is much slower than the previous songs allowing you to catch your breath from the break neck speed of some of the previous tracks and the band show they have no problems with slowing things down a tad.
Maitland Street the opening verse to this had me attracted by the simple yet clever lyrics again Cheney's vocal are the driving force behind the track despite the strength of the music it plays second fiddle to his perfect punk voice which gets a bit of a work out here. The song has a high tempo throughout but slows whilst the vocals come back and speeds up between verses allowing Cheney's vocals to be songs leader whilst the lyrics work brilliantly. The album definitely seems to have picked up after the opening three tracks.
Putting you Down is another one with a great opening verse though the music takes a slightly more jazzy feel to it than the punk of many of the previous tracks, the song feels a lot more relaxed and yet almost dancey in a weird way. The tracks story is amazingly sung and feels like it couldn't be improved, the band have nailed a brilliant song here and have managed to get me tapping my feet through out as the song sounds like a wonderful Ska type thing just with out the trumpets. Although the song sounds different to everything else so far on the album it has a really go happy feel to it which is impossible to dislike and will make it one of the albums stand out tracks.
Short Notice is different once again taking a very computerised sound and although standing out due to it's sound it's not as good as the previous track. Despite saying that lyrically the song has made me giggle (inadvertently I assume) and changes to the typical punk charge of much of the album as the lyrics repeat and seem to get faster and more punk sounding every time. Gotta admit this isn't one of my favourites.
So what the song takes a rather poppy sound to it, not quite boy band sounding but not far from it and a rather inverted love song with the singer falling for a girl that's driving him crazy that he believes won't give him a shot. A bit like a crush on the ultra hotty that you're in all honesty to scared to go and talk to. As a song it's a lot softer sounding and slowed down compared to much of the album but yet Cheney's voice and the guitars make it sound like The Living End in an odd way.
Rising Up From the Ashes...nothing to do with the little cricket urn we can feel free to rub in the Australians faces for now. The song sounds like the "real band" is rising from the ashes as they go back to an out and out punk feel with simple but tight music and a great timing as well as (yes I'm going to say it again) Cheney's vocals delivering the lyrics impeccably. The speed of the song and overall feel is much more like what the earlier part of the album felt like.
Hold Up, the penultimate song according to most online track listings, takes us straight back to the flat out break neck pace of the early part of the album and back to the truer punk sounds of the band. The song is about a hold up and the running away with the proceeds of the robbery you can almost imagine the scenario as a robbery goes wrong at the end after botch job of robbery and the high pace of the song makes you almost expect it to go wrong, a great track.
The Room at around 8 minutes long is (it seems) the last track according to the track listings I seem to find (which is bizarre as I seem to have a 15th track on my download). The song takes a whole different approach to music and seems to try a much more experimental idea than the previous tracks almost trying to properly mix Prog and Punk (prog-punk?) with a track that seems a bit Genesisy (early Genesis) with a large dose of Punk. From the lyrics it seems to be about someone being in prison for 16 years (one of the robbers from the previous song?). The song seems to turn out to be almost about the bloke from Shawshank Redemption (sorry if this spoils a minor bit from the movie) who couldn't adapt to being out of the prison.
For some reason my album includes a 15th track, "Live It Up (Demo") the track sounds more like the punk I've always been familiar with from the band though a weird opening musically when the vocals kick in the song sounds like sort of think I expect from the band. Though it is quite nice it does seem like the music is perhaps a little over powering in regarding to the vocals and the lyrics seem catchy but offer little in intelligent word play. Though I can't imagine anyone feeling robbed if their version doesn't have the track it is a nice bonus.
Overall I would have to admit I'm glad I got State Of Emergency first as I wouldn't have got it if I'd of bought this first. That's not to say this is actually a bad album, far from it, it's just to be honest, I expected better and State of Emergency is better (a long way better) this just has a few too many songs that didn't really blow me away, whilst SOE had me from the start to the end. A few too many tracks tried to experiment a little but seemed to go no where with the idea and reverted to type rather than use the songs as a throw away to really try new concepts on their own (not a problem per se but if you're going to try something new, follow it through for a full track). I would however have to advise it, because overall it was enjoyable, just less so than I was hoping for.
The Living End are an Australian band, very well known within their own continent and parts of America but somewhat underappreciated in Europe. In my experience, the UK especially.
Modern Artillery is the band's third full studio album and is a decent presentation.
The Living End have are a three piece act, however, they are now on their third drummer. His first album was this one, Modern Artillery. They are a 'rock 'n' roll' collective. They certainly are rocky in style and this is fairly consistent throughout. Their music appears to show shades of punk influence and has been compared in such away. They band however, prefer to distance their self from punk in the support of the aforementioned rock 'n' roll.
=== 1. What Would You Do? ===
The first track is a quick opener and only last 90 seconds but jumps straight in with all three instruments. It's got a nice tempo and fair lyrics. Nowhere near a classic but good nevertheless. "[4.5/10]"
=== 2. One Said To The Other ===
A slightly longer and more inspiring effort. In the similar vein as the previous track in terms of style, content and lyrics. Is here a pattern occuring? Lets see... "[5/10]"
=== 3. Who's Gonna Save Us ===
Straight from the intro, this track is different with a few tempo switches. A suspending melody at the start of the track which one it fully drops, builds up throughout the track to a slightly shouty but controlled chorus. Better. "[6.5/10]"
=== 4. End Of The World ===
The rockiest/heaviest of the tracks so far. A rousing song with prominent drums throughout. This is the kind of thing which gives the band shades of punk. Nice vocals with good lyrics. A strong track. "[8.5/10]"
=== 5. Jimmy ===
A cryptic song in terms of its meaning, you can make up the detail yourself but its about a boy's evalutaion of moral conduct. The songs switches from sustained and fairly melodic parts to some slightly more instrument heavy sections. Not us good as the last track but still on par with the rest. "[5.5/10]"
=== 6. Tabloid Magazine ===
The name says it all about the song's topic. In the first few notes it sounds slightly similar to an Oasis opener, but the beat soon changes and the verses are very well synced to the rhythm. My personal opinion is that the verses are quite good but the second part of the chorus is a bit out of character to the rest of the song. This will probably just be a matter of personal taste. "[6.5/10]"
=== 7. In The End ===
This is a very universal track, and possibly my favourite. Very restrained and calm in relation to the other tracks, they drums stand out much more as the guitars take a bit of a back seat. A really good chorus which sounds great. ('... /powers above us, show us you love us./ In The End It's Just Another Day...') and is quite catchy. Best track so far. "[9/10]" _(I'm very stingy with the 10s.)_
=== 8. Maitland Street ===
Another serene beginning to the song which increases somewhat unnoticeably to the first proper chorus. A nice tune and even sounds a little bit too radio-friendly to go on here. But the lyrics are not really bubblegum although there's nothing wrong with them. Another good track. "[7.5/10]"
=== 9. Putting You Down ===
After listening to it just now, on second thoughts, this is my favourite track on the album. A mellow beginning, which seems to be part of a trend in this album, but a nice guitar riff keeps the song nice and cultured. It has a slightly distinctive feel about it. Not really as loud and rocky as some of the albums earlier tracks. It maybe lacks a little bite, but is a chilled one. "[9/10]"
=== 10. Short Notice ===
A bit of a drop considering the last few tracks, another rocky one. Not as good of a listen as some of the others, but this album changes tempo a lot so I'd just go with it. The lyrics are funny in places in this song, think they're about what he really thinks of his girlfriend but its quite lighthearted. Easy to forget, but easy to endure. "[5.5/10]"
=== 11. So What? ===
A slightly American country vibe early on in the song. Back to the melodies again and not as raw as the previous track. I like the chorus to this song and when you really listen to the lyrics they are again quite funny and clever. Passive aggressive even. Quite like this, but it won't be to everyone's taste. "[7.5/10]"
=== 12. Rising Up From The Ashes ===
The guitars are the boss here, opening with a sort of soft metal riff. I'mm not evactly enamoured with the verses, they are just, well, regular I suppose. The way in which the chorus is laboured makes it quite a good one to sing along to as it not too complicated. This track has it's moments indeed. Its good once it gets going. "[7/10]"
=== 13. Hold Up ===
A raw and ultimately, rock 'n' roller tracker. As the name suggests, and the chorus of 'Put the money in the bag' suggests. This song is about a robbery and uses the drums to up the pace of the song. A decent one, you won't full asleep to but will definitely sound great on the ipod if your bouncing down the high street. "[7/10]"
=== 14. The Room ===
This is the only track with a long build up, but it is the last on the album. It hits a crescendo at about 1minute20seconds and changes tempo. Another track with a slightly unique feel to it in relation to some of the others on the album. It changes again around 3 minutes into a sort of ska-rock beat and sounds really funky. Not exactly a cheerful chorus to end on but it sounds great. I personally like this type of music and it's a bit of shame that only rears it's head a couple of times on the album.
The track last about 8 minutes and really emphasises the tempo-switching which this album so deftly pioneers. The tracks begins to calm and fade then comes back into a decent guitar solo and one final rendition of the chorus. A good ending to the album. "[8/10]"
The album lasts about 50 miuntes and overall is a really good listen. If you have never heard The Living End, then might I suggest you do something about it. Any fan of music _avec_ guitars would be advised to do so.
The album fuses mainly rock stylings with a dash of ska, a twist of punk and pinch of salt. A refreshing release.
If you're more of a drum machine kinda person then I'd stick to what you know. The stuff of gigs, not dance clubs.
All in all, a good album. They are due to release their fifth album in late July.
(If you like this album and want more, I recommend 'The Living End' & 'Roll On', their first and second albums respectively. Their fourth album 'State Of Emergency' is slightly weaker.
I hope you enjoyed my review.
Also posted ciao.co.uk
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 What Would You Do?
2 One Said to the Other
3 Who's Gonna Save Us?
4 End of the World
6 Tabloid Magazine
7 In the End
8 Maitland Street
9 Putting You Down
10 Short Notice
11 So What
12 Rising Up from the Ashes
13 Hold Up