Produced by the masterful Nick Launay (Silverchair, INXS, Gang of Four), State of Emergency is quite the fourth album from The Living End. After the success of their Mark Trombino-produced third album, Modern Artillery (2003), the band took the overwhelming sheen from that CD, pared it down to simply a dull roar, and unleashed the aggression that seemed to be missing on their last album on State of Emergency. As a finished product, we the listeners get a CD packed with gritty post-punk and no bullshit to be found.
Put simply, the first half of the disc is nothing short of masterful. From the Pink Floyd-inspired single, “Wake Up” to the bouncing sing-along “We Want More,” The Living End has brought the goods. Tight hooks, energetic vocals, and that endearing post-punk sound that have always made the band such a pleasure to listen to are all focal points on the new disc. This is most definitely their most focused album to date both musically and vocally as a result. It seems like they made this album as much for themselves as for their fans. Often on State of Emergency the band completely lets loose and rocks out in an instrumental bridge. Squealing guitars, brooding bass lines, and Chris Cheney’s versatile vocals make it stand head and shoulders above anything else released thus far in 2006.
“Nothing Lasts Forever” is a charming ballad that probably lasts a bit too long (and ultimately the infectiously brooding chorus grows repetitive), but it holds down the transition between the album’s halves extremely well. Perhaps the title even alludes to the listener’s sadness as the album draws to a close seven tracks later. While some of the later songs may be less memorable as single material, they’re still insanely catchy post-punk with a few diamonds in the rough (“Black Cat” is a notable one). The title track sounds like it would fit in perfectly as an amazing Modern Artillery b-side (it’s a bit too dark for that album) that perfectly tightens the focus of the new CD.
There are still some areas that keep The Living End from scoring perfect tens, but it’s so far the most intelligent, technically solid album in any genre to be released in 2006, and will continue to be among my “most played” list for the foreseeable future. Old fans should have no trouble finding State of Emergency up to their standards, and new fans should be able to latch onto the emotionally appealing music that the band has made this time around. This is definitely the band’s best release of their career, and The Living End have shown they certainly have a brilliant future ahead of them.