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Album Review: The Living End ‘Shift’

The Living End 2016

When Keep On Running was released in March it was hard to know what listeners were supposed to expect with The Living End’s latest album ‘Shift’. It was a grandiose effort that one would associate more with larger mainstream rock acts like U2 or Coldplay. It begged the question – is this style of song indicative of what ‘Shift’ is going to offer?

Within the first three tracks of the album it’s clear The Living End haven’t completely abandoned the hard, driving rock that have made them an iconic band in Australia. One Step is a short track with punchy lyrics and it would likely make a killer opening song at any gig. Monkey and Death both keep up the furious momentum of One Step, before the album slows down a notch with Staring Down the Barrel.

“It feels almost as if it’s two parts of one song, as both tracks complete an interesting mini story within the album.”

Staring Down the Barrel comes across as a song about giving up, which is well complemented by the next track Keep On Running, as it acts as a song of reassurance. It tells the listener that “all will be okay my friend” and that they “gotta keep on running”. It feels almost as if it’s two parts of one song, as both tracks complete an interesting mini story within the album.

‘Shift’ picks up the tempo again with Up the Junction and Wire, before taking another detour with With Enemies Like That, another song if released out of context could lead the listeners to believe The Living End have become the next U2. Much like Keep On Running did with Staring Down the Barrel, Further Away perfectly complements its predecessor, as it’s a catchy, up-tempo pop rock song similar to something you would hear from The Gaslight Anthem.

While there are great songs from track one-nine, Coma is without doubt the highlight of the album. It goes from deep and thought provoking, to a kick ass rock song, and back again to deep and thought provoking within its 4.32-minute time span. It’s one of The Living End’s most impressive songs to date and it would have been the perfect song to end the album on. The implication that the entire album has simply been a coma dream would have been an amazing twist, given the eclectic nature of the tracks that preceded it. Unfortunately this is not the case, as ‘Shift’ has one more song – a song that possibly makes the entire album lose half a star off its rating.

“…‘Shift’ proves that a great Australian band can still stay fresh after more than 20 years on the scene.”

Life As We Know It definitely stands out as the weakest track on the album. It’s hard to pinpoint why this is – perhaps it’s because it feels rushed and a little lazy, with the hook “there’s no destination, only right here and right now”, or it might be simply because it follows arguably the strongest track on the album. Maybe it could have been seen more favourably if it was in the middle of the album? It’s a possibility, but in any case ‘Shift’ could have concluded with an outstanding song that left people wanting more. Instead, it has a final track that listeners are probably likely to skip.

It can be easy to pigeonhole The Living End at times because of their previous singles, but ‘Shift’ proves that they are a band that continues to strive for relevancy while still holding a semblance of their core sound. It’s an album that celebrates both where they come from and where they are potentially going in the future. But most important of all ‘Shift’ proves that a great Australian band can still stay fresh after more than 20 years on the scene.

Album Rating: 3.5

The Living End ‘Shift’ Tour

The Tivoli, Brisbane
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
The Astor, Perth
Forum Theatre, Melbourne
Forum Theatre, Melbourne
The Gov, Adelaide
The Gov, Adelaide

Get Tickets HERE

The Living End Shift Artwork