The Used ‘Heartwork’ album review

It seems these days that The Used are happy to push musical boundaries rather than shoot for a comeback album. After the (unwarranted) flop of 2017 double album outing The Canyon, a lot of fans seemed to give up on McCracken and co.. Two new singles ‘Blow Me’ and ‘Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton’ reinstated some people’s love for the band, but the people who will truly adore this masterpiece are those who aren’t looking for an early 2000’s sounding The Used, but those who are looking to see the band take on board everything they’ve learned from their previous seven outings.

The afore-mentioned first two singles really harked back to their self titled debut album and follow-up In Love And Death. They set this record up to be the one everybody wanted, and then smashed those expectations with groovy and disturbing third single ‘Cathedral Bell‘. It sounds like The Used while not sounding like The Used, incorporating keys and clicks and sounds atypical. It really defines the sound of the record.

It seems every new album I’ve come across lately has a plethora of strange features, with blackbear appearing on the new All Time Low record and Princess Nokia on the new Silverstein. The Used keep it less weird, with appearances from Jason Aalon Butler (Fever 333), Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker (Blink-182) and Caleb Shomo (Beartooth). Butler’s appearance on anthemic lead single ‘Blow Me‘ adds an extra aggression to it and was the perfect comeback track. Hoppus makes one of his best collaborative contributions in a long time, fitting seamlessly in on moving highlight ‘The Lighthouse‘, while Barker neither adds nor takes away from catchy, bouncy ‘Obvious Blase‘. Shomo’s powerful vocals and screamed breakdown add an extra emotion to ‘The Lottery‘, with McCracken’s whispered “please don’t hurt me” really yanking at the heartstrings before the chorus kicks.

The record is easily identifiable as The Used more so at the start, with the first two singles really establishing the classic sound. ‘BIG, WANNA BE‘ is the perfect track to put next, a solid and definitive The Used track with chugging guitars. Latecomer ‘Darkness Bleeds‘ also has the same vibe – it’s how their self titled record would’ve sounded if they’d written it today. It’s like a last hurrah before the haunting closer ‘To Feel Something‘, which lands the album with grace; the sentiment of “I just wanna feel something” being one everyone can get on board with. ‘Bloody Nose‘ and ‘Wow, I Hate This Song‘ come in fourth and fifth and, while not really pushing the record anywhere, are two good tracks. Some may not appreciate the strangely cringy lyrics in the latter, however, especially when the rest of the record is methodically poetic.

Interlude ‘My Cocoon‘ really starts the experimental side of the album, followed by the disturbing ‘Cathedral Bell‘. Whispered chorus “ignorance is this” makes ‘1984 (Infinite Jest)‘ a strange but satisfying track. Cinematic opening to frantic ‘Gravity’s Rainbow‘ creates a hard rock big screen experience, and then ‘Clean Cut Heals‘ suddenly drops the listener into a radio-poppy emo track that shouldn’t work but does. Next interlude ‘Heartwork‘ (yes, the title track is an interlude) adds to the frenetic and disgusting heart of the album. It sounds like the monologue at the beginning of ‘I’m A Fake‘ from In Love And Death – it’s just as scatty and mental.

This album is probably the most natural I’ve heard in a while. They’re not pretending the last seven records haven’t happened, they’re embracing them and they’re taking what they’ve learned and they’re making an album with their heart and soul in it. For those wanting a record that abandons experimental leanings in favour of an attempted glory days rehash, this isn’t for you. On the flip side, if you want to hear a The Used album that harks back but keeps itself looking dead ahead, this is definitely the album you’ve been waiting for.