Members: Chris Cheney (guitar and vocals), Scott Owen (upright bass), and Andy Strachan (drums).
All it took was one riff â one single, glorious, heart-starting monster of a hard rock riff â and The Living End's fate was sealed. When guitarist/vocalist Chris Cheney walked into band-practice one day in late-2007 and launched into the barrage of finger-searing seventies-style groove-guitar histrionics that kick off "How Do We Know" â the first track on The Living End's brand new album White Noise â he and bandmates Scott Owen (stand-up bass) and Andy Strachan (drums) suddenly saw months of frustration evaporate and a universe of possibilities become clear.
It had been ten years since The Living End recorded their breakout double A-side single, "Second Solution" / "Prisoner of Society" â with many hit songs, gold and platinum albums, sold-out shows, festival-headlining appearances, world tours, award statuettes, magazine covers and satisfied punters in between. Already among the best-loved and most respected groups in the country, the Melbourne trio's last effort, 2006's State Of Emergency, had seen them re-attain the dizzying heights, debuting at #1 on the charts and leading to some of the biggest shows of their career so far.
Having completed the extensive touring commitments for State Of Emergency, in mid-2007 The Living End reconvened to focus on writing their next full-length album. But the pressure to produce a successful follow-up soon proved too much. Mired in a creative malaise, chief songwriter Cheney suggested they resume hiatus for another few months, during which time he took up art and yoga classes while awaiting the muse's return. It was sometime towards the latter part of the year when the sweet Jimmy Page-meets-Jack White's-octave-pedal brilliance of the "How Do We Know" riff struck him. While some would liken it to a religious awakening, Scott and Andy reckon it was like watching Chris drop his trousers. Call it what you will â from that moment on, the floodgates were open, everything just flowed.
Throughout the back half of '07 and into the New Year, The Living End threw themselves into this harder, heavier groove. Fusing their love of the classic sound of 'Zeppelin, 'Sabbath and AC/DC to their pre-existing framework and injecting it with a fresh sense of adventure, the boys were spurred on to create a batch of songs that played to their strengths in the live arena.
As a live proposition, The Living End's reputation is unquestioned â on a great night there's barely a band on the planet that can touch them. So with that in mind, in February, they decided to road test a set of choice new cuts on a nine-date Victorian tour. Operating incognito under the guise of their longtime alter egos The Longnecks, the success of tour confirmed to the trio that it was high time all the frenetic live energy for which they are renowned should finally be transferred to their studio recordings.
To help them realise their vision for White Noise, The Living End sought a producer whom they felt could, in Cheney's words, "capture the energy and attack we are after". Enter John Agnello, who had previously pulled sounds for a host of impressive names, including Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and The Hold Steady. In April, at the behest of Agnello, The Living End converged upon Water Music Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey for four very intense weeks pre-production and recording. Tracking together live in the studio and recording straight-to-tape, the band and Agnello cut out all visible flab, keeping nothing but meat, bone and the raw essence of an amazing three-piece in full-flight.
Slamming the whole thing out in an astounding three weeks (with one week of pre-production at the start), White Noise was then mixed in eight days at Silent Studios in Atlanta, Georgia by Brendan O'Brien, the studio wizard also currently working on new records by AC/DC and Pearl Jam. Boasting eleven standout tracks, it kicks off fittingly with the blowtorch guitar-work and hard-arse funk groove of "How Do We Know", slamming quickly into the explosive "Raise The Alarm". Next up, first single and title track "White Noise" offers a spirited take on the band's trademark sound, and (along with "Hey, Hey, Disbeliever") helps build a bridge between the old sound and new. With solid rhythms and steady tempos, White Noise's rockin' central pillars, "Make The Call" and "Loaded Gun", each showcase different aspects of the remodeled The Living End sound, while "Kid", believe it or not sounds like a post Hamburg era Beatles in full flight. "21st Century" drags it at all to a breathtaking peak. Closing out the record, the laidback dub-reggae vibe of "Sum of Us" shows the diversity the band are capable of, while still remaining comfortable within their own skins.
White Noise is the sound of The Living End carving out an exciting new phase â not only a new milestone for the group, it's an instant Oz rock classic. Thank heavens for art and yoga.