The Living End
Shots have been fired. The Living End’s seventh album, Shift, is the hard-line sound of a band on the warpath. Pity the fool in its sights.
The Living End has a history of tough talk. There have been riots, revolutions and resistance, and Chris Cheney, Scott Owen and Andy Strachan have never been afraid to break out the artillery. What makes Shift so different is the unflinching candour. Shift is a first-person fight club.
“It’s not a feel-good record,” Cheney confirms, “but it’s a good record. It’s saying something isn’t working, and sometimes the only way to fix it is to break it, then put it together again. As hard as it can be, the only way something changes is when something changes.”
Since forming at high school and busking the streets of Melbourne, The Living End has gone to number one, had four platinum plus albums, been awarded ’s Australian Song of the Year and scored six ARIA awards. They’ve played world tours, ute musters, every festival everywhere and, in 2012, a 35-night Retrospective Tour, performing their entire back catalogue in five cities – a feat that would make anyone murderous.
But no band survives all that without experiencing a seismic shift, and when the trio congregated on Melbourne’s Red Door Sounds, the changes that needed to happen became apparent. Whatever had gone on before with The Living End didn’t apply now. Every idea and sound was to be warped beyond recognition.
The band brought in their live engineer, Woody Annison, as producer, to squeeze the maximum energy out of every note. The first sessions were pressure-cooker crazy. Take the track Monkey: that’s a guitar riff with a seriously short fuse. That didn’t stop the rhythm section unleashing its own frustration for posterity. Frenetic opener One Step pushes Scott Owen’s upright bass sorcery to new limits; in fact, the “space bar” lyric refers to Owen constantly halting the playback to fire off another idea. Then there’s Strachan’s psycho disco beat in Wire, which seizes the song by the horns and rides it home.
The first single is Keep on Running, which Cheney co-wrote with his friends Dylan Berry & Stefan Litrownik, almost as guidance to their children. “The death of my father was a very difficult time and the lyrics are partly influenced by that event,” he says. “We all have moments where life is getting the better of us, but that's when you draw strength and come out the other side stronger.” Shockingly, the day after the song was written, a man Cheney was talking to at the gym dropped dead in front of him. “It was horrendous and the timing was unbelievable,” says Cheney. It only reinforced how important it is to push through with positivity.