MODERN ARTillery, by The Living End
Suggested by Daniel Lettin
There was something weird about this album, something I couldn’t quite identify.
I enjoyed it. It’s a fine pop-punk record, tight and assured, with strong songwriting and melodic Green Day style vocals. The tracks shifted and shimmied through a number of influences and styles, each keeping that pop-punk core but each flirting with something bigger. Still, there was something… not amiss as such, just something other.
After I’d finished, I hit up Google, looking for facts and hooks for the upcoming review. I’d already booked the score (7/10) and the standout track (End of the World), but I needed something else to say, something more than “this was decent, so if you like pop-punk then give it a whirl.”
Click click. Scroll scroll. The band are from Australia? Huh. Interesting. Not fascinating, mind.
Click click. Scroll scroll. They landed a support slot on Green Day’s 1995 Australian tour by sending Billie Joe Armstrong a t-shirt and demo tape? Nice hustle. Cute.
Click click. Scroll scroll. They use a double bass.
That as it! That was what felt askew, at ninety degrees to my expectations. The sound was slightly different, slightly strange, and now that I understood why, slightly elevated. Good work.
I didn’t know of other bands that rocked a Double Bass, so I Googled on. The Stray Cats? Wow, nice. I probably should have known that. Mumford and Sons. Early Barenaked Ladies. Cool!
That’s one of the best thins about this project. I get to learn some cool new things. In many ways, the music doesn’t matter.
This pop-punk trio began as The Runaway Boys, but they soon suspended operations under that name, sacrificing their fanbase before returning from exile, rising from the grave as The Living End. This fared them well, resolving into a twenty-six-year and eight-album winning streak. Modern Artillery is their third album, and it’s packed with professional songs delivered with consummate ease. On a double bass, apparently.
My gripe with the pop-punk genre is that the songs, and bands, have a homogenic feel. This song sounds like that track by the other band, expanding fractally, reaching toward an even horizon that sees us all in a pop-punk band one day. Thankfully, there’s scope for nuance in The Living End, with my standout End of the World being a fine case in point. It gallops along at breakneck speed, with the drums as the pace car and the rest of the instruments doing their best to keep up. Apart from the vocals, which are deft and exciting but completely poised throughout. Other songs that bear repeat listens include So What, which is the most chart-friendly pop number here, and the chantable single release Who’s Gonna Save Us?
The Living End haven’t achieved breakaway success outside their homeland, but on the strength of this solid 7/10 album it’s difficult to understand why. Maybe it’s a touch too polished and controlled for those with a punk heart, or maybe it’s a little too rowdy and rebellious for those in popworld. Or maybe, like me, their audience felt uneasy at something they heard, without the google gumption to solve the double bass mystery.