The Living End - Modern ARTillery (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Living End

Modern ARTillery (2004)


These days they're closer in feel to the Foo Fighters than the Stray Cats, but The Living End continue to craft appealing punk songs with strong musical roots and an undeniable appeal. With Modern ARTillery The Living End capture time and time again that intangible quality that makes a good pop song so damn enjoyable. You can hear this in the single "Who's Gonna Save Us?," the Joe Jackson feel of "Tabloid Magazine" or the album opening "What Would You Do?." It's entirely a feat in songwriting that the lighter tunes here are as every bit as engaging as the hard-rock bravado of 2001's Roll On.

If there's a villain lurking in the shadows of this release it may be producer Mark Trombino. If anything he's guilty of masking the fact that this band is indeed a three piece, and with that in mind some of the multitasked vocals here just don't seem authentic ("In The End" has more than a few moments of this). There's an edge to these songs that's missing in some places and I'm not ready to blame the band for it. Fortunately the strength of Chris Cheney's songs manages to keep the listener from dwelling too long on the production choices.

This is an album cut very much from the same cloth as Green Day's Warning in that it's a logical and welcome maturing of a 90s mainstream punk band. Songs like "Putting You Down," with it's smooth harmonies and reggae backbeat, or the slide-guitar country ballad "So What" are the type of inspired crossover work that a band with this many Clash influences should be writing. The rollicking "Short Notice" is a throwback to the nervous energy of early Buzzcocks. Anyone looking for the big, muscular rockabilly from their previous few releases are only going to get it on a few songs, most notably "End Of The World," but since it's something the band has done so many times in the past it's no real crime that they've given the formula a break three albums in.

One hopes Reprise gets their promotion straightened out for this one. The band's past releases were too legitimately rock `n roll to make any major impact on the young US mall punk crowd and the band's current pop outlook sounds too mature and genuine for that rabble as well. Modern ARTillery is a fine a rock record and will hopefully get the push it deserves to the right audience this time around. Some questionable production choices aside, if there's any justice in the world the band's songwriting deserves wider recognition.