Written By: Ben Millikan
Apparently, an intense hatred for the self sells. Not to say that the angst-ridden lines dropped by The Used frontman Bert McCracken are in any way disingenuous or feigned (anyone who goes through the sordid ordeal of losing an unborn child knows a thing or two about pain and grief), but after making three highly successful albums full of lyrical self-flagellation, Bert shows no signs of moving away from his own personal self-loathing on the band’s newest release, “Artwork.”
“This record is about coming to grips with how much you really hate yourself and knowing you can never hate yourself to the full extent, so you’re free to hate yourself as much as you want to,” says Bert. Although this is a rather despairing revelation, when Bert’s lyrics are fused with the ultra aggressive-pop sound produced by his band-mates, these grungy guys from Utah have proven that they know how to connect with their rabid fan-base.
Lyrically, Bert has mastered the craft of explaining his inadequacies and shortcomings through the power of verse. Any and every eyeliner-wearing, emo-savvy youth out there will be able to get behind lines such as, “Sold my life to bring the rain, maybe to wash me clean / Sold my soul to stop the pain, hoping you’d set me free” (“Sold My Soul”) and “Opened up my failure when you refused to go insane / I felt you get excited when I whispered all the things you love to hate” (“Come Undone”). But while fans will be able to recognize the sort of slit-your-wrists empathy conveyed in the lyrics, some purists may still be unsatisfied with the lack of ferocity and aggression in the music.
“Artwork” is a more guitar-driven album than the band’s previous release (“Lies For The Liars”), but it is still a far cry from the raw, youthful innocence of the band’s 2002 self-titled debut. “Blood On My Hands,” the first single and opening track off of Artwork, is an in-your-face, guitar laden track with a catchy intro riff and a powerful, crowd-chanting chorus––but it lacks the sort of chaotic abrasion of “The Taste Of Ink” or “Buried Myself Alive.” That being said, The Used have put forth a much more cohesive album that displays their growth and, dare I say it, maturity as a band.
“Empty With You” (which features an ambient, analog synth riff) and “Kissing You Goodbye” (a powerful ballad number featuring keys and strings) are songs where, if placed on previous albums, would feel awkward and out of place. But in the midst of “Artwork,” these toned-down tracks are not overdone from a production aspect, and actually add to what is already an album with a very diverse feel. Screamo fans, don’t worry––there is still plenty of room for head-banging on the heavy half-time beat of “The Best Of Me” and you’ll have your chance to scream your guts out during the bridge of “Meant To Die.”
The Used have successfully taken pieces from previous albums and collaborated them into a record where the emphasis is on the songs themselves, as opposed to memorable parts in songs. It may not be the album that some fans were waiting for, but it is hard to argue that “Artwork” isn’t their most complete and definitive album to date.
Want More of The Used?
Feature – Two Nights Of The Used
CWG review of Artwork
CWG Review of Loss Of Desire
View all of Brett’s photos of The Used
Rock/Metal Editor, Jason Coldiron interviews Dan of The Used
Rock/Metal Editor, Jason Coldiron interviews Quinn of The Used