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Album Reviews, Music

Album Review: The Used – “Heartwork”

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

 

 

“I sung of chaos and eternal night,” John Milton proclaimed as he put ink to paper nearly three and a half centuries ago. Remembered as the author of the greatest English epic poem of all time, Milton demonstrated that detailing the fall of humanity wasn’t necessarily a light tale to tell. However, as many writers today have realized, neither are the struggles faced by those in the modern world.

In fact, fast-forwarding through generations of conflict and strife, it seems safe to say that upon entering present times, the exemplary poet would be quite impressed by the storytelling skills of yet another group of fellow artists. Some of which, who’ve looked to him for guidance and inspiration.

Enter The Used.

Widely recognized as one of the leading voices in rock music over the last 20 years, Bert McCracken (vocals), Jeph Howard (bass), Dan Whitesides (drums) and Joey Bradford (guitar) are essentially one big ball of manic energy characterized by displays of raw emotion and a canny obsession for the written word. And with a literal global pandemic making its rounds, the platinum-selling quartet couldn’t have picked a better time to come bearing the artistic gift necessary to lift our spirits.

Out today (April 24) via Big Noise Music Group, Heartwork, emerges as the band’s eighth studio release and encompasses both a flair for the dramatic and a song progression second to none. Like the perfect playlist, the record incorporates flashes of variation while still dipping back into The Used’s core defining sound. In other words, the sixteen-song tracklist is one you’ll want and should listen to front-to-back.

Beginning with an ode to one of McCracken’s favorite bodies of writing, “Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton”, is the perfect way to open the new album. Pounding drums and heavy guitar melodies crash around the singer as he explores personal stories, weaves in literary references, and drops Easter eggs with lines such as “before the yellow fades to blue” (referencing the third single “Blue and Yellow” from the band’s self-titled debut album). It’s stunners like these that provide an adrenaline rush for fans of the band’s signature sound, and illustrate why The Used have dominated the rock scene for so many years.

However, while the explosive and honest style remains the backbone of the band’s music, the rest of the album’s catalogue is generally far from a callback to past sounds. Rather, songs such as “1984 (infinite jest)”, “Clean Cut Heals”, and “Wow, I Hate This Song”, are a clear dive into the experimental. Complete with haunting whispers, electronic dance beats, and cheeky pop-inspired melodies, the overall success of the newer material bodes well for the future of the group.

Be that as it may, this departure isn’t to say that the band has lost their edge. It takes a certain amount of guts to change things up, and honestly, only The Used could turn lines like “la la la holy fuck. I hate this song” into ironic “radio-ready” material complete with background screaming and pop sensibilities.

For whether it’s guttural shouts or spoken word, it seems The Used has not only extended their wild and restless side to conquer new genres, but the band has preserved their pounding melodies and poetic lyricism as traits that will hopefully remain a part of their past, present, and future endeavors.

Recommended Tracks: Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton / 1984 (infinite jest) / Wow, I Hate This Song

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