The Used have fallen under many classifications over the years, just don’t call them emo or anything of the like. For that reason alone, we’ll list them as a hardcore punk-influenced rock band who casually experimented with hip hop elements and other influences to create a charged and electric sound. In any light, they’re back with volume 8, Heartwork, a clear nod to their 2009 album Artwork and their latest full-length since 2017’s The Canyon. With a few guest stars and three singles out, Artwork seems set to live up to its name from the preface, with the goal of matching the acclaim that The Canyon garnered in various publications.
Punky from the start, “Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton” operates on the tried-and-true oscillation between unassuming, quiet verses and decibel-shattering choruses; comparable sonically to some tracks from Green Day’s Father Of All Motherfuckers album from earlier this year. “Blow Me- Jason Aaron Butler” is less ambiguous, resembling Billy Talent taken to the point of overkill with more breakdowns. “BIG, WANNA BE” is a dead ringer for Papa Roach in recent years, slamming, momentous and ergo true to its name, “Bloody Nose” is more clear-cut and rooted in standard emo-influenced rock. “Wow, I Hate This Song” dives deeper into that mould while once again exhibiting arena potential, trailing off into the airy interlude “My Cocoon.”
“Cathedral Bell” doubles and deepens the bass of “My Cocoon”, sounding like a combination of “nihilist blues” from Bring Me The Horizon’s Amo album and The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar’s “Pray For Me”. “1984 – infinite jest” combines Panic At The Disco with more edge, and once again, more bass, “Gravity’s Rainbow” meanwhile expands and adds to Artwork’s explosions of colossal sound and energy offset by moments of sharply opposite quiet. “Clean Cut Heals” is an unexpected twist in the Artwork flavour, largely electronic and melodic with a funky, danceable chorus made more for a nightclub than a theatre or arena. “Heartwork” makes the hard turn in the road even sharper, diving into a short bit of highly alliterated poetry repetitively centred around kindness that builds to a dramatic fever pitch; sort of like “Horse Latitudes” but a tad less obscure.
Now come the guest features. It may be a Used album, but Blink-182 lay their paws on this album as well; the first being the upbeat slap-bass groover “Lighthouse” with Markus Hopper chipping in, the second being the late 90’s-tinged “Obvious Blasé” with Travis Barker on drums. Turning back to harder fare, “The Lottery” brings Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo into the fold for an intense lung workout over a deadly breakdown. The last two tracks The Used handle themselves, starting with the frantic “Darkness Bleeds, FOTF”, an epic straddle between chaotic electronic influences and full hardcore rage that gives way to a tender piano outro complete with choral backing. “To Feel Something” rounds the record out, going off of the tame precedent set by the end of “Darkness Bleeds” before blowing open into a final fit of screams and synthesized rattle.
Artwork ultimately is what you would call either a “complete” record or damn close. It covers a wide spectrum of emotions and a wider spectrum of sonic corners to channel them through, running the gamut of the human experience from hardcore, emo, electronica to hip-hop and spoken-word poetry while keeping it totally current overall. It’s this kind of approach that sets out The Used from their contemporaries, and will ensure them longevity and critical acclaim for as long as they intend to continue.