The Living End

Modern Artillery

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The Living End took the turn of the century by storm. With the Clash as their stylistic outrider, the trio scooted snotty and poppy across Australia and Europe before hooking up with the Warped Tour for some crucial U.S. cred-building. Three years on, the Living End has returned to find the old school overcrowded with sugar-punk sprites and every other stripe of rock revivalist. Though they date from the Green Day Gen-X punk era, contemporary relevancy demands a fresh chroming of the Living End's previously perfectly workable jumble of rockabilly, British punk, and '80s pop spare parts. Appropriately, Modern Artillery is helmed by Mark Trombino, who previously brought gleaming product like Jimmy Eat World, Midtown, and Gob to market. The bawdy gang vocals of 2001's Roll On have been replaced by sculpted multi-tracking, and the cleanup operation doesn't stop there. "One Said to the Other" and "Who's Gonna Save Us?" are strong offerings from Living End frontman Chris Cheney, but their rough instrumental and vocal edges -- the kind that made even the poppier elements of the band's past ring with validity -- are polished and buffed here. The guitars punch mightily, and the choruses detonate, but they do in colors easily identifiable to a throng of American baby punks with silver safety pins in their mouths. Luckily, Cheney's fascination with his influences won't be silenced by brand positioning, and sticking to his guns saves most of Modern Artillery from slick meddling. "End of the World" crosses rockabilly with classic Midnight Oil, while "Jimmy" and "Tabloid Magazine" are spot-on Joe Jackson tributes. "Short Notice"'s 1977 Upstarts colors won't wilt, even in the face of crackly drum programming and vocal filters. It's a representative song for a problematic yet still promising album stuck between engineered formula and real deal rock.

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