The Used HELL YEAH
Despite undeniably being one of the seminal punk rock forces of the early noughties, it’s never been plain sailing for The Used. Personal heartaches and battles aside the four piece (with either line-up) seem to have struggled to make any significant waves as a band since 2004’s much revered In Love and Death and while they’ve hardly been slacking off – see 09’s Artwork and 12’s Vulnerable for proof – they fell from many peoples’ radar a long time ago. This April though, they’re back with Imaginary Enemy and with a strong whiff of revolution about it, it may just claw back some of the attention they’ve always deserved but so rarely been given.
Starting the record with not only a song called Revolution but the proclamation that “All revolutions are impossible ‘til they happen, then they become inevitable” there’s no room for doubt that the Utah quartet have a concept behind their ever-present madness this time around. A heady mix of driving guitars, pummeling drums and the electronic beats that of late, have become an increasingly experimental presence in the band’s sound, the track rises and soars with an explosive energy and when spliced with a chorus of spirited gang vocals, it really couldn’t be more fitting of its bold title and ultimately, its purpose. It’s exciting in a way that’s certain to have people standing up and taking note and essentially, what could be more perfect when proposing an uprising?
Having been released in late January, Cry is an anticipated injection of what we could call ‘classic’ Used. Far more light-hearted than its predecessor but still walking the tightrope between clean and screamed vocals in a way only veterans of the style can, frontman Bert McCracken leads us back and forth from introspective verse to infectiously catchy chorus and this, Ladies and Gents, is the trump hand of The Used; their ability to meld an intelligent idea with a dumb ditty, the feeling of love with the destruction of hate and the good with the goddamn ugly.
With a title that’s likely to have the more jaded among us reaching for a bucket, El-Oh-Vee-Ee is what you’d call a true sucker punch. While it’s a mid-paced, slightly lazy amble of a song that is of course, about love, it isn’t a soppy ode to a particular person or nauseous reflection on the woes of romance as you might assume, but an impassioned nod to the idea that we, the world, just need a bit of love to get by…and that’s something we can get on board with. While this is good though, the shining moment of Imaginary Enemy comes from A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression (A Work In Progress) the track that, despite being quite a mouthful, is the one to tell all of your friends about.
With a truly perfect balance of groove and aggression, of force and of subtle charm, it is without a doubt The Used at their absolute finest, but with an added new and powerful hint of revolt. There’s fury in the frantic cacophony of instruments that blast throughout but there are also plenty of hip shaking opportunities to be found in its infectious beat. Put simply it casts a shadow, however slight, over the likes of The Taste of Ink and All That I’ve Got and that’s what we’ve been holding out for all these years!
This isn’t to say that the formula is guaranteed to work every time though and unfortunately, Imaginary Enemy does have its fair share of fillers and awkward moments. Apparently built for a stadium and channelling a little more Metro Station than we can ever hope to stomach Generation Throwaway should (please, please forgive us for the pun) be indeed, thrown away. While slow and ultimately tedious Kenna Song should be dismissed as a token ballad-of-sorts, that doesn’t even come close to what we know McCracken and Co are capable of when they get a little sentimental – i.e. On My Own or Hard To Say.
It almost pains us to admit that at points it’s hard to escape the feeling that they’ve ever so slightly missed the mark again, due to separating the sickeningly sweet from its devilishly sour equaliser on a couple of songs too many. In equal measure the two opposites not only work for the band but set them apart from the crowd, whereas when sweet is left to be just that, they have a habit of becoming a bit uninspiring and considering their radical push for inspiring a utopia, we can can’t help but feel that the Utah four-piece would’ve benefited from being a little heavier handed on this occasion.