The Living End

State of Emergency

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Australia's, and maybe the world's, most popular punkabilly trio the Living End takes its Stray Cats strut and Reverend Horton Heat bluster and continues to channel it into a more commercially viable pop/punk sound. The album got a delayed release in the States, likely due to the indifference of the American public, but debuted at number one in Australia when it was released there in February 2006. Despite the skinny ties and standup bass, which is practically inaudible anyway, State of Emergency sounds more like a buffed up Jam album, all snappy hooks and impassioned vocals over a rollicking set of songs. Like Green Day, who the Living End are certain to be compared to -- though not entirely accurately -- these songs refine the pop/punk at their core with smart changes, sharp playing, and a sense of adventure that broadens into anthemic rock, for better or worse. But a more accurate comparison can be made with fellow Aussies You Am I, who also stretch a tough three-piece garage sound into dynamic directions without diluting their vision. Producer Nick Launay knows how to optimize the group's crackle and crunch from his years successfully helming Midnight Oil, the Church and INXS. But songs as powerful as "What's on Your Radio?" don't need much help to raise the already elevated energy level. If Midnight Oil wrote more concise tunes aimed at a younger audience, this might have been the result. Singer/guitarist/primary songwriter Chris Cheney can reach for the back rows when necessary, as he does on "Reborn" and "Order of the Day," but then scale back to less thumping choruses. Still, there aren't many songs that huge throngs won't be able to sing along with in the arenas the band plays, at least in their homeland. The high quality of the songwriting decreases slightly as the album winds through its final third, but the attack remains dramatic, powerful, and rocking, and the final blowout of "Into the Red" leaves the listener with a '70s punk-styled fist in the face. There might be too much energy here for U.S. radio to handle, but the Living End has stepped up to the plate on State of Emergency and hit one, if not quite out of the park, at least to the warning track.

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