The Used are back with their eighth studio album Heartwork! This offering definitely sees The Used exploring some new avenues, and for anyone hoping this might be harking back to their fourth album, Artwork, because of the similarity in titles- they’d be mistaken.
Heartwork’s first track Paradise Lost, A Poem By John Milton was released as a single back in February. Starting out with a scuzzy guitar part, before launching into a punk-charged pre-chorus, the track eventually pans out into The Used’s signature sound with a ridiculously catchy melody and clean vocals in the chorus. Vocalist Bert McCracken spoke about how this track was inspired by his obsession with the poem (Paradise Lost) and John Milton, and his subsequent investigations into the latter’s political essays, about people thinking the was the devil, and the failed revolution against the Church Of England.
Blow Me– featuring none other than Fever 333’s Jason Aalon Butler, was the first single to be released by the band in over two years- and it’s easy to see why they chose this one. It is classic The Used, but with a new-found charge that seems to be a theme on this album. Although the lyrics for Butler’s feature are unimaginative at best, the execution is explosive as hell- as is everything he does.Fourth track Bloody Nose, potentially inspired by Butler’s earlier feature, sounds like it heavily carries some influences from Letlive’s (Butler’s former band) Fake History, mostly through the rhythmically driven verses, and the downward inflection in McCracken’s vocals at the end of phrases.
Wow, I Hate This Song has the most incredible chorus, with powerful clean vocals in the foreground, underlined by what could be described as desperate shrieks (it’s cooler than it sounds), which make for some pretty interesting layers and a forceful final product. Meanwhile, new single Cathedral Bell is very Billie Eilish inspired, with some similar vibes to Bring Me The Horizon’s Ludens too. 1984 (Infinite Jest) seems to be a nod to their own back catalogue (never a bad thing), mentioning Imaginary Enemy, Revolution and with a bridge that could have been taken straight from In Love and Death. Aside from this, there’s a pretty intriguing pre-chorus, which manages to hold attention by somehow doing so much, yet almost nothing, all at the same time. Continuing their trip down memory lane, Gravity’s Rainbow begins with very low strings creating instant Bird and the Worm vibes, which continue throughout the track, only with a slightly creepier edge.
Things get pretty weird with Clean Cut Heals, which is a stripped back, yet upbeat electronic track, which would be pretty out of place were it not followed by through and through pop song Lighthouse, featuring Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus. Blink offer their services once again, with Travis Barker providing drums on the jaunty Obvious Blasé, which also features some pretty funky but subtle piano, string and bass parts throughout. There’s one more guest feature left on the album, and this time its Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo on The Lottery which embraces fairly simple verses before breaking down pretty heavily mid-way through. The album closes out with a ballad-y track called To Feel Something, which maintains a slow pace up until the bridge, before bringing the whole album to a vehement end with its distorted, noisy outro.
Upon first listen, Heartwork’s sound and vibe comes across as fairly sporadic, with some tracks feeling spot on, and some feeling completely out of place. However, the longer you listen, the more is seems like there is just enough of each thing to make it work. There’s the right amount of new The Used vibes, with some classic sounds still in there too, just enough pop for it to fit without being the main focus, and some heavier moments which tie it all together nicely. This all makes for a satisfying amalgamation, and The Used’s most interesting album in the last few years.
Heartwork is out Friday 24th April via Big Noise/Hassle Records. The album can be pre-saved and pre-ordered here!