In a time when mobile phone screens were pixelated, Spice Girls dominated the charts and having your hair look like a bleached pineapple was cool, something drastically different was brewing in Australia.
That something was a riotous blend of rockabilly, punk and alternative rock that defiantly refused to conform to any of the genres it was inspired by. Citizens of the '90s though they were, The Living End created their own sound; one that’s evolved to always faithfully reflect where the lads are at and the state of the world they live in.
Now, 20 years on from the release of their debut album, The Living End are getting set to reveal the latest chapter in their musical evolution: 'Wunderbar'.
While it may be a German word, lead singer Chris Cheney reckons you should feel free to be as Aussie as you want in your pronunciation.
“I actually wasn’t sure about the name at all to begin with. But the more I thought about it, the more it grew on me. It’s quirky. It’s not something anyone would expect from us. But it sums up how we felt about our time in Germany.”
Recorded in Berlin, the title reflects how inspired the boys were by the city and culture around them. It also captures the feel of the album in a beautifully distinctive way. German for 'wonderful', 'Wunderbar' reads as a genuine expression of wonderment in many of the album’s more energetic tracks. Others take the same name to a darker place, giving it an ironic twist along the way.
Diehard fans will be happy to know the album is filled with echoes of the early days. In fact, in an act reminiscent of the film clip for 'West End Riot', the band recently took to the streets of Berlin to go busking. “That’s how we got our start, busking. And that’s where we feel at home, when we’re right there with the crowd.”
One bloke loved the music so much he took it upon himself to be their personal mascot. “He came leaping out of nowhere, grabbed Andy’s hat off his head and started riling up the crowd, getting them to throw money in. At some point he realised who we were and that we weren’t doing it for money. He was pretty embarrassed when he handed the hat back.”
As for the proceeds? “They went to another busker who was playing saxophone nearby. We had a go at jamming with him for a while but we didn’t speak a word of German and he didn’t speak a word of English. I’d love to tell you we made some sort of musical connection, but it was more funny than anything.”
As for their upcoming tour, Chris reckons the energy onstage still matches the hectic-ness of the '90s. If you were lucky enough to catch the boys back then, rest assured the double bass is in as much peril nowadays as it ever was. “We haven’t slowed down. Scott still throws the bass around, that’ll never change.”
'Wunderbar' is released 28 September.
The Living End Tour 2018Sun 30 Sep - Caloundra Music Festival (Sunshine Coast)
Thu 1 Nov - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)
Fri 2 Nov - The Enmore Theatre (Sydney)
Sat 3 Nov - Forum (Melbourne)
Sun 4 Nov - Scene & Heard Festival (Newcastle)
Fri 9 Nov - Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide)
Sat 10 Nov - Metropolis (Fremantle)
Red Hot Summer Tour 2019Sat 12 Jan - Mary Ann Reserve (Mannum)
Sun 13 Jan - Sandalford Estate (Swan Valley)
19-20 Jan - Mornington Racecourse
Sat 26 Jan - Country Club Lawns (Launceston)
Sun 27 Jan - North Gardens (Ballarat)
Sat 2 Feb - Roche Estate (Hunter Valley)
Sun 3 Feb - Bella Vista Farm (Sydney)
9-10 Feb - Sandstone Point Hotel (Bribie Island)