You have to wonder about a band that can filch countless hooks from rock records of the 50s, 60s, and 70s and then declare on the opening salvo of its debut album, "We don't refer to the past / When showing what we've done." This punk-pop trio from Melbourne, Australia, recorded two solid EPs of hell-bent rockabilly before Reprise Records, still scratching around for the next Green Day, signed them in the States. Scott Owen has yet to relinquish his upright bass, but on the band's 1999 full-length debut, The Living End, they folded in the footballer choruses and white ska of British postpunk, and on the new Roll On they're even more self-conscious in ripping off the Jam, the Clash, and the early, spiky Cure. But let's not forget that the Jam, now generally acknowledged as a band that mattered, spent their first two albums clumsily mixing overearnest lyrics about youth power with musical ideas recycled from their parents' record collections. Compared to most American punk bands, the Living End have a pretty good musical vocabulary, and while they may be observing down-under working-class culture through the holes in the middle of early Clash singles, what they see is still more interesting than the middle-finger rants of bands like Pennywise and the New Bomb Turks. "Pictures in the Mirror" looks over the shoulder of a woman trying to live down her past as a pinup girl, "Don't Shut the Gate" blasts Australian immigration laws, "Read About It" ponders a celebrity culture that embraces serial killers, and "Revolution Regained" vaguely addresses the postindependence turmoil in East Timor. Like many sophomore albums, Roll On suffers from too much ambition and too little inspiration, but unlike the majority of rock bands chewing their way toward the present, the Living End may actually have a future. Tuesday, March 13, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Danny Clinch.