Critics love to call an album they're reviewing "good driving music". Stuff that sounds best in a convertible with the top down, the wind in one's hair, never sounding quite right except when those on the sidewalks look to be at a standstill and the open road beckons.
Whether or not they're doing their share of critiquing while planted in the bucket seat of their Pinto is an aspect that's usually not discussed.
That aside, Roll On, The Living End's newest effort, goes best while driving like an absolute madman (or mad woman, as the case may be). If you can muster it up, the speed of light seems appropriate. Otherwise, just make sure to take tight turns that make the tires squeak, keep the windows down, and turn the CD player up as loud as it'll go without blowing the speakers.
This is the way the End's Chris Cheney, Scott Owen, and Travis Demsey want you to hear their music.
Starting with the frenetic three minutes and some seconds of "Roll On" -- an anthem destined to shake the trio of its rockabilly notions forever -- and barreling full throttle into "Pictures in a Mirror" without so much as an opportunity to catch its breath, The Living End stands to surpass the mainstream popularity of both The Offspring and Blink 182, two bands it's toured with already, ironically enough.
And, instead of being compared to the likes of those lesser talents, these Australia natives lay siege on a territory not successfully trod upon since the hey day of Mick Jones and Joe Strummer. While it sees fit to rock its own way, the End likes its punk a bit smarter than the latest Green Day incarnation. Which means, essentially, while there are the songs about getting liquored up to the point of oblivion ("Carry Me Home") and a relative who can't quite locate the facilities soon enough ("Uncle Harry"), the band intersperses those with socially-aware takes on last year's East Timor invasion ("Revolution Regained") and Australia's ongoing immigration debate ("Don't Shut the Gate"), for example.
While it's asking a bit much of American teenagers used to catchy choruses about fly white guys or being able to remember your age, kudos go to the End for raising the bar where and when it needed to be.
It also sounds as if The Living End has benefited from its share of Van Halen exposure, with an opening guitar riff in "Staring at the Light" to cause even Mr. Roth's own ears to perk up and make him want to jump off something.
Still, it seems The Living End has broken a lot of molds with Roll On. It's blazing its own path in the musical world and a fast, furious one it is. That you should listen to driving.
Just take this critic's advice and steer completely away from the annoyance anxious ticket-giving policemen are.