March 11, 2004

Test Spin: The Living End

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Give it a month or two, and your little sister will be wearing her tee-shirt. And it will be black.

The thing is that Chris Cheney is actually an exceptional guitarist. As lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the Australian trio The Living End, Cheney has an irrefutable talent, but it’s not enough to save Modern Artillery. Dangerously close to falling off the oh so familiar over-produced-pop-punk cliff, Cheney’s boisterous, driving solos on tracks like “End of the World” pull the album back from the edge. Otherwise simple and trendy, songs like the aggressive, tireless “Hold On” are nearly (but not quite) redeemed by Cheney’s intuitive, skillful playing. Still, even with some impressive guitar moments (Chester Bennington of Linkin Park called Cheney one of the best guitarists in the world), the standard three piece pop-punk schema is just barely transcended.

The band’s third album follows an especially successful self-titled debut in 1998 — five times platinum largely due to their single “Prisoner of Society” — and an eclectic, inspired second album, both of which showcase Cheney’s fascination with rockabilly. This distinctive sound all but disappears on Modern Artillery and, with the exception of Cheney’s noteworthy solo moments, is replaced by diluted, unremarkable tracks. The album seems to fit nicely in the established pop-punk mold, a mold designed largely by The Living End’s producer, Mark Trombino, who is sometimes blamed for distilling the sounds of Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World. Regardless of who takes the blame, though, The Living End’s third album just about disappoints.

Archived article by Lynne Feely