Review Summary: The Living End return with what is arguably their best album since their debut.
White Noise - The Living End
Chris Cheney - Guitars, vocals
Scott Owen - Upright Bass, Backing vocals
Andy Strachan - Drums, Backing vocals
If I had to use one word to describe the album White Noise, 'Solid' would be the word that first comes to mind. Looking at all the albums released by the band, White Noise is easily the most solid. It consists of simply 11 tracks, no filler and none of the songs over stay their welcome. Every song stands out from the pack and can stand strong on its own merit. To put it clear, The Living End have created a near perfect slab of rock that is arguably their best effort since the self titled released all those years ago.
The album starts of the same way as all good rock albums' start. The opener 'How do we know' contains a very memorable riff that catches the listener as soon as it starts, and doesn't let go until the song finishes. The song keeps your attention until it unleashes it's very catchy chorus complete with lead and backing vocals. The song has been described as the best on the album by many people, however saying it is the only song worth listening to couldn't be more further from the truth. While I personally believe it is a brilliant opener, 'How do we know' is not my favourite cut from the album.
After the energetic 'Raise the alarm' (a number reminiscent of Second Solution, and my personal favourite from the album), the album takes a slower approach than the first two tracks. 'White Noise' is as close as the band have ever come to penning a ballad. Its heartfelt lyrics and poppy elements make it the signature single of the album. 'Moment in the sun' and 'Waiting for the silence' keep the pop mind set firmly in place and again both have a slower tempo than the opening tracks. This isn't a complaint as all 3 slower numbers give the whole album an identity and structure that works very well, almost a time to chill down after the first two tracks.
It's this structure that makes for an enjoyable listen. Whether it was intentional or not remains to be seen, the fact is that every song runs so fluently with each other and the heavier and slower songs are arranged in perfect order. 'Make The Call' kills the entire slow mood with one of the band's heaviest riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on a Black Sabbath record. This song is easily a highlight as everything just clicks, from the instruments, vocals and chorus. The entire album takes a similar approach with the remaining songs being a frenzy of riffs and catchy melodies, save one or two songs such as the retro pop song 'Kid' and the albums Ska influence closer 'Sum of Us'.
Guitar work has always been important to The Living End and this album confirms Chris's status as THE aussie guitarist. His solo's on this album are much shorter, but so much sweeter. He spends less time mucking around and instead just gets to the point, giving the songs the extra flair they need. However if this makes him sound like he is becoming lazy, you would be dead wrong! Songs like the intro to 'Loaded Gun', the solo of '21st Century' and the funky licks in 'Sum of Us' show that he is being more creative than ever with his choice of licks, notes and scales.
The lyrics don't stray too far from familiar territory. 'Raise the alarm' deals with the clash of religion and morals, 'Loaded Gun' deals with the shooting of an innocent boy after the London bombs and '21st Century' deals with you guessed it, the modern world around us. Whilst the lyrics are not bad, it has always been about the delivery with these guys and they don't disappoint. Every song has at least one vocal hook that will suck you in, and you may just find yourself humming a few of the tunes at school or at work for a few months. Whether it is a fist in the air chorus, or just a good old fashioned tune, every song on the album delivers.
But alas, no album is perfect and this one is no exception. At only 11 songs the album feels a touch too short. At least 2 more songs wouldn't be asking much, and from hearing the B-sides they wouldn't have interrupted the flow at all. I also feel that the song 'Kid' doesn't stack up against the other songs although it gets the job done. These of course are minor complaints and I feel I am nitpicking at what is a near flawless modern day rock record. Every member brings something new to the table. The drum sound is brilliant, and whilst there isn't double kick/thrash drums galore, Andy gets the job done bashing the beats behind the double bass and spotlight stealing guitar work.
In conclusion, I simply cannot recommend this album enough. In an age where the majority of mainstream releases feature 2 - 4 strong singles mixed with filler tracks, this album is a huge breathe of fresh air. The boys should be proud of this release, and it stands tall in their already impressive back catalogue..
(+) Catchy whilst still remaining fresh and original, No filler
(+) Some great riffs, drumming and lead guitar work
(+) Doesn't lose its appeal over time.
(+) Solid, flows really well
(-) Feels a bit short
(-) Shorter guitar solo's may put off long time fans
(-) The double bass is not as high in the mix as previous albums.