Hi 66 / Lo 46
|Volume 69, Issue 106,
Monday, March 9, 2004
Arts & Entertainment
Living End satisfies its fans
By Bridget Brown
The Living End has a certain charm that proves the definition of aesthetic. The little ska band from Down Under is more concerned with the pure emotion and sensation that is driven into ska-infused rockabilly rather than constructing highly thought-provoking music.
The group's lyrics always sound better than they read. That's OK, because it's the stand-up bass, crunching guitars and timeless melodies that give the band's sound an edge of sophistication and an energy that caused Americans to take notice of its self-titled major label debut in 1998. The change of a drummer and a car crash didn't stop TLE's momentum for the release of Modern Artillery.
The brilliant combination that the band used on all of its releases is here again, only this album is dedicated to showcasing the group's unseen technical talents with undistorted guitars and cleaner vocals. However, the band's raw punk sound still shines through the glossed-over major label release.
TLE's tragic flaw is repetition. For every different-styled track on Modern Artillery, like the country twanged "So What" and the light ska melody of "Putting You Down," there are more offerings that overplay TLE's traditional locomotive energy. The bouncy rhythm that made fans fall in love with the band sometimes leaves those same fans wishing for something different. The taste of musical range the group presents isn't enough to sell the changes to fans.
Although bands like Green Day have managed to reinvent their sounds while profiting from the same three chord arrangements, TLE has problems with this concept. Rather than slightly changing and tweaking what works, the group is left with a sound a little too similar to mainstream punk rock of the mid-1990s. This is not a bad thing if you need a break from mainstream punks today.
The upside of sounding like a throwback radio-friendly punk act is that groups weren't unbearably whiny yet. TLE has strayed from the boy-band punk sound that so many washed-up mainstream acts of the 1990s are falling into. TLE shines with the Bad Religion-esque "ooh and ahh" harmonies that litter songs like "Rising up from the Ashes." Others, such as the dark "End of the World," could easily fit with the band's debut.
TLE's fast blasts of punk have at times overshadowed the group's deeper musical ability. On Modern Artillery, the group tries to slightly branch away from that stigma, but instead ends up falling into the same rut that fans still love.
The Living End
Warner Bros. Records
The verdict: This album has just enough ammunition for a familiar sounding record.
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