The Living End - Who's Gonna Save Us (Song Analysis)

AUD210 Week 6 Song Analysis

For this Soundalike project, we have chosen a punk-rock/ pop-punk track Who’s Gonna Save Us by The Living End. The song was written by the vocalist and guitarist Chris Cheney and was recorded, produced and mixed by Mark Trombino.

Structure and Rhythm

Intro (8 bars)-> 1st Verse (14 bars) -> 1st Pre-Chorus (4 bars) -> 1st Chorus (10 bars) -> 2nd Verse (6 bars) -> 2nd Pre-Chorus (4 bars) -> 2nd Chorus (10 bars) -> Solo (8 bars) -> Bridge (10 bars) -> Vocal Break (4 bars) -> 3rd Verse (8 bars) -> 3rd Pre-Chorus (8 bars) -> 3rd Chorus (8 bars) -> Chorus Variation (10 bars) -> Outro (8 bars)

The bpm for the song is 140 with no tempo changes or rubato, and is driven by the drums playing a standard rock beat with kick drum on 1st and 3rd beat with snare on 2nd and 4th beat.

Instrumentation, Arrangment and Dynamics

The song is a three-piece rock song with a twist, featuring a electric guitar, a double bass, an acoustic drum kit, a lead Vocals and some gang Vocals. There are also some subtle chord strumming acoustic guitar blended in with the electric guitar for a overall brighter sound in the last chorus.

The electric guitar starts off the song with the main riff and the lead vocals start joining in after 4 bars into the intro. Then the drum and bass join in at the last bar of the intro and they stayed for the majority of the song. Exceptions being the lead vocal stops during the solo, bridge and break but joins in occasionally as small phrases while the drums stop during the break. The lead vocal joins back at the start of the 3rd verse while the drums joins back at the middle of the 3rd verse.

For the backing vocals there are some more variations:

  • 1st Verse - 1 harmony line on lyrics ‘your rights’

  • 1st Chorus - Group vocals join in, supporting the lead singing the same melody and words as lead vocal.

  • 2nd Verse - Similar to the first with more subtle layers when the lead vocal holds the note into the next bar. Overdubbed vocals coming at the end of phrases with harmonies on ‘new leader’ lyrics.

  • 2nd Chorus - Similar but with louder backing vocals

  • 3rd Verse - Similar but with some notes holding over the bar ‘who’s gonna save US’

  • 3rd Pre-chorus - Adds more subtle layers of held vocal notes ‘who’s gonna save us’ with the same ‘phone’ effect.

  • 3rd chorus - Phone effect vocals are back again singing the lines ‘who’s gonna save us’.

The dynamics is rather stable throughout the song except the intro, the break and the outro. The chorus is louder than the verse with higher gains on electric guitars as well as harder strumming. Vocals and drums are also louder in the chorus but not as apparent comparing to the guitars.

Harmony and Melody

The song is in the key of G major and the harmony is created by the guitar chords playing mainly power chords (I V VIII) during the verse and open chords (I III V VIII) during the chorus. The main chord progression is :

Verse: |G5 D5| - |G5 Dmaj| - |E5 C5| - |G5| - |E5 A5| - |E5 C5| - |C5|

Pre-Chorus: |C5|

Chorus: |G5 D5| - |G5 D5 - |Em Cm| - |G5| - |Em Am| - |Em Am| - |C5|

The main riff for the song played by the guitar during the intro, the later half of the solo and the outro. Its a double stop staccato riff based on G major in quavers made up with notes (D - C - B - G - A - G - G - B) and a constant G note an octave above. The vocal melody is mostly in key, with emphasis on the III (B) and V (D) of the key.

Gear and Technology

(Control Room #2 for Ocean Studios)

This song is recorded as a part of the album Modern Artillery in Ocean Studios in Burbank, California in 2003. The studio features a 80 series NEVE console.

During interviews, the guitarist reported that his list of go-to gears consist of a Grestch Falcon guitar, a tube screamer, 2 vintage Marshall JCM 100W amps and a Wizard guitar amp. It gives an unique hollow-body guitar sound with a taste of 70-80s hard rock sound with the tube screamer and the vintage Marshall guitar amps.

For the bass, although the bassist is known for its arsenal of King and Benedict Puglisi double basses as well as Ampeg amps, the bass sound in the song resembles a standard Fender Precision bass with flatwound strings plugged through a DI.

For drums, the band usual gear includes common Pearl Drums with Zildijan cymbals which are nothing out of the usual.

Production and Mixing

The overall approach for this piece is standard and resembles normal rock/ punk songs. However, there are a lot of double tracking and different layers of guitar strumming with different set ups such as higher gains, less distortion or with acoustic guitars. There are also a lot of subtle fill-ins of the electric guitar layered with the main strumming and they are played with simple fourth note delays.

In our research of production techniques and gear choice, not much have been found except the producer reportedly using a pair of AKG C414 microphones with a Mid-Side configuration as room mics during drum tracking. Furthermore, he is also a fan on Sennheiser MD 421 mic on snares and toms. Contrastingly, after testing and experimentation, we found that an Shure SM 57 would resemble the snare tone in the track more.

The mixing approach is also rather standard, with emphasis of vocals, bass, kick and snare in the middle while guitars and gang vocals in the sides. Audio effects used in the song is rather simple and standard. The only interesting or creative usage of audio effects is in the vocal. For the intro and pre-choruses, a “Phone” effect is on for the lead vocal and it is panned slightly left possible to allow space for the guitar playing the riff on the right. For the gang vocal, the same “Phone” effect is on during the last chorus.

Overall, the song is relatively dry as in reverb, especially for drums. Slapback delays are used on lead vocals and guitar solo.

Vibe and Performance

The lyrics for the song has a common rebellious theme about the social unrest. Such theme is apparent throughout the lyrics, such as:

“We're under attack now. Our work is all cut out. Whatever happened to your rights?” “We're under powered now. Trial devoured now. Step aside and make way for the new leader”

“It's all around me and I just don't understand. Seems all out of place now.”

The main hook for the song “Who's gonna save us?” sends a message to the audience to actively take part into changing the society since no one is going to save the commons except for themselves.

This is a typical punk rock song of the same era (the 2000s) with vibes resembling punk bands like Green day, Sum 41 and Blink-182. It feels aggressive, energetic and upbeat contributed by the vocal, the rock style drum groove and heavy, speedy distorted guitar chord strumming. The double tracking of the guitar and vocals are very tight which further boosts the energy while the subtle guitar fill-in jamming fits well with the song.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts