With the bravado of soccer hooligans and the collective musicality of The Clash and AC/DC, Australia's The Living End wants to take punk rock back to the streets (and pubs) with its new release, Roll On, a fist-in-the-air, 15-track stomp.
"We consciously made a rock and roll album that makes it feel like it was recorded live, which it was, and to give it that air of urgency that punk rock is missing now," drummer Travis Demsey tells Wall of Sound. "Punk rock was about the unity of us against the rest of the mainstream world that don't understand us. Now, anyone who takes their top off and they're big and muscly, they're punk rock because they knock everyone over."
With its 1998 self-titled disc, The Living End (Demsey, singer-guitarist-songwriter Chris Cheney, upright bassist Scott Owens) turned heads Stateside while opening for The Offspring and playing on the Vans Warped Tour. The latter stint is where Demsey crossed paths with rapping Bill of Rights-advocate Eminem.
"I called him a misogynistic, homophobic prick … and Eminem sent someone to shoot me, so obviously, freedom of speech doesn't work for him until it suits him," maintains Demsey. "I don't really want to talk about it. It's just so funny that America now is jumping on his bandwagon, going, 'Well, it's freedom of speech.' In Australia, that guy would be punched out because it's not freedom of speech. Your constitution is 400 years too old. It's like saying, 'The right to bear arms.' Well, look where it's fucking got your country."
Despite his high-minded views (and apparent history shortcomings — 400 years?), Demsey's pride for The Living End is valid. The group's new disc possesses a timeless rock feel as it seamlessly combines arena rock riffs ("Silent Victory") with punk rock celebrations ("Roll On") and political indictments ("Revolution Regained"). The biggest difference this time around for the raucous trio is its lack of punkabilly playing, or Stray Cats sound, which, for the most part, defined The Living End and its precursor EP, Hellbound: It's for Your Own Good. While out of Brian Setzer's shadow, The Living End's members now hope to distance themselves from Green Day, the other band with which they are so commonly associated.
"I think they are a comparison because they're a three-piece punk band," says Demsey. "We just think it could be demeaning to us. We certainly think Green Day is punk rock, but Green Day aren't doing augmented-ninth jazz chords. Green Day doesn't have a double bass. Green Day doesn't have triple harmonies."
So, after a West Coast swing in early May and a few European festivals, the members of The Living End will be conducting their own taste tests of sorts for fans when they open Green Day's upcoming tour.
"That's the reason we accepted it, to show people that there is no way we're anything alike," says a confident Demsey. "The problem is, until people realize that we're different, they are going to keep comparing us to Green Day, which is a very nice thing. And it's not disrespect for Green Day, but it's disrespectful for us. We have nothing to lose."