ALBUM REVIEW: The Used – Heartwork

While everyone is talking about one particular emo band making a comeback in 2020, there has been one band that has been consistent since 2002, The Used. The Ohioans are as relevant now as they were in 2004 and are here to deliver their eighth album Heartwork (Big Noise), produced by John Feldmann (Goldfinger), the album is packed with style—a quick blast of energy and intense rhythm. The album has many guest appearances that will become classic staples.

The Used have approached this album differently from 2017’s The Canyon (Hopeless Records) We don’t really know what to expect as opener ‘Paradise Lost in a Poem by John Milton’ hits with a malevolent harmony. Frontman Bert McCracken treats us with his wordy verses and catchy chorus. The first single ‘Blow Me’ follows with this dark atmospheric theme. There is many dark moments in the album but this track will make fans happy as it features the incredible Jason Aalon Butler (Fever 333).

‘Big Wanna Be’ the third track offers an electro-pop piece that will surprise fans—the digital percussion is a bit rough, but adds to the depth. There is prominence in ‘Bloody Nose’ where McCracken sounds great, Dan Whiteside’s drumming is solid and with the clean guitar breakdown, it is a worthy piece on the record.

There are many different music styles in Heartwork and as it works overall, there are too many to decipher in ‘Wow, I Hate This Song.’ Sure, it is a great title and lyrically funny, yet the song starts big then slows down and ends with a strange fade-out that could have just been part of the B-sides. The tranquil electronic beat in ‘Cathedral Bell’ sets up the tone with the similar beat found throughout.

The Used try to mix in early 2000’s emo with a start-stop-start groove in ‘1984 (Infinite Jest).’ The very thematic ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ begins with quintessential strings and is reminiscent of earlier albums yet the band makes it sound relevant. ‘Clean Cut Heals’ will be the song that everyone will dance to live. The track is nowhere to be classified as rock—can definitely see DJs play this in a pool party set— but it has a very memorable groove and McCracken’s vocal performance here is just so crisp.

The partnership in ‘The Lighthouse’ with Mark Hoppus (Blink 182) and McCracken is effective and goes well with the guitar melody. Following, ‘Obvious Blasé’ also featuring the other Blink 182 OG Travis Barker, showcases the undoubtedly high energy the album overall portrays. The drum work is fast but not overbearing and fans will dig it. The last guest appearance is on ‘The Lottery’ featuring Caleb Shomo (Beartooth) The song brings you a chaotic breakdown where the vocals shine their brightest. Fans will vibe to this song that will be a concert staple. Another song the band should have shelved is ‘Darkness Bleeds, FOT,’ as it feels like it is all over the map that doesn’t stick to one style with its stop and go tone. The album closes with ‘To Feel Something’ that encompasses the chaos and the angst heard track after track.

Heartwork, with its sixteen songs clocking in around 46 minutes, is a lot to take in one sitting. There are songs that are going to be skipped but where there are weaknesses there are strengths. After eight albums, The Used can produce any album they want, yet they manage to stay relevant, have fun along the way and invite some friends to party.

8 / 10

CYNTHIA JO