When Reprise introduced Australian trio The Living End to American audiences by repackaging its two manic rockabilly EPs onto one disc, the group seemed poised to assume The Reverend Horton Heat's thankless throne, one that requires constant maintenance in the form of touring. However, The Living End's self-titled 1999 full-length debut went on to establish its members as sneering dispensers of vaguely dangerous pop punk, like Dookie
-era Green Day, only with real accents. Roll On
treads similar territory, replacing "West End Riot" with "Riot on Broadway" and including a live version of the past disc's hit single "Prisoner of Society" -- but The Living End again has adjusted its sound. Looking to its country's most famous headbanger act, AC/DC, for inspiration, the band now plays ROCKabilly. The suffix remains appropriate; Scott Owens still slaps a stand-up bass, and Chris Cheney still delivers scorching guitar solos instead of timidly echoing the vocal melodies, but growing up from these solid roots is a towering, uniquely cross-pollinated behemoth.
For all its filth ("Uncle Larry," a boisterous ode to an incontinent relative) and fury ("Killing the Right," a diatribe against prejudice), Roll On is most memorable for its hooks. The Living End throws away more catchy melodies than most acts conceive, discarding them after a few seconds to pursue an even more infectious avenue. It's these irresistible sing-along passages that make The Living End the most likely candidate to bring edgy guitar pop back to the airwaves in 2001, although having major-label support and a cushy spot on the high-profile Warped Tour this summer certainly won't hurt.