NO matter how much success an act enjoys or how widespread their supporter base becomes, every band reaches a point where the mainstream stops listening.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that the band isn’t progressing or maintaining their high standards. It’s just that trends have shifted and the identity of a band is crystallised by a specific sound or moment in time.
Chris Cheney believes that happened to The Living End’s seventh album Shift last year. The record debuted at No.4 on the ARIA charts, but faded quickly and received minimal airplay compared to their earlier albums The Living End (1998), Roll On (2000) and State Of Emergency (2006).
Cheney is disappointed Shift, the Melbourne rockabilly punk band’s first album in six years, failed to register a bigger response because he believes its the band’s most complete statement.
“I’m super proud of it,” Cheney says. “I’m bummed the record industry is in the state it’s in because a lot of people never heard that record and I reckon they should have.
“It’s hard with a band like us who have seven records, people tend to think they know the band and have the earlier ones so why should they buy the new one?
“My argument is that the new record Shift, to me, sounds like a band invigorated and that’s what we were.
“It has some of the most aggressive and energetic songs that I’ve written and I’m super proud of it. It’s got an edge to it, which I think the two records before that were lacking.”
Despite Shift’s lack of success, the tours supporting the album were a major victory.
The band’s sold-out show at the Cambridge Hotel last March was one of the best gigs seen in Newcastle this year, led by Cheney’s scintillating fretwork and impassioned vocals.
In fact, as a live act The Living End have perhaps never been better. In September they wrapped up their second US tour in six months, which included a run of dates supporting reformed legends Midnight Oil.
“I don’t feel any different and I think the band plays better now than we ever did,” Cheney says. “We’ve got more songs to choose from, I feel we’re better musicians, everything is better for me.
“I feel like when we were younger I couldn’t sing properly. There’s always an energy you get from your first record and you can’t capture that again. But I don’t feel on any level that we’re tired and I would hope we’re smart enough and aware enough that when it does start to taper off that we can pull the plug.
“I think this band always has to have a certain level of energy and has to be relevant, and I feel like we’re still as relevant as ever.”
Thankfully for Hunter fans another shot of Living End’s frantic brand of rock is coming. Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Andy Strachan will headline A Day On The Green’s second ‘90s alternative rock-focused tour this summer.
Last year’s inaugural “Monster” bill featured You Am I, Something For Kate, Spiderbait and Jebediah and was a raging nostalgic success.
The Living End will be joined by Spiderbait, Tumbleweed, The Fauves and US bands Veruca Salt and The Lemonheads.
“We never thought we’d get to that level where we could play a big show like that,” Cheney says. “It’s not just about us, of course, it’s about the other bands and the entire event.
“It’s a big loud rock show too, which I like. It’s not this tame picnic.”
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of The Living End’s self-titled debut album which delivered the No.1 single Prisoner Of Society and massive success. Grinspoon have been active celebrating their album Guide To Better Living this year, but Cheney is unsure how The Living End will mark the milestone.
“It’s definitely worth commemorating,” he says. “That was such a monumental record for us and when it came out it changed our lives. It’s hard to believe it was that long ago.”
The Living End headline A Day On The Green at Bimbadgen on February 24.