The Used - 'Heartwork' Album Review
1. Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton
2. Blow Me (feat. Jason Aalon Butler)
3. BIG, WANNA BE
4. Bloody Nose
5. Wow, I Hate This Song
6. My Cocoon
7. Cathedral Bell
8. 1984 (Infinite Jest)
9. Gravity's Rainbow
10. Clean Cut Heals
12. The Lighthouse (feat. Mark Hoppus)
13. Obvious Blasé (feat. Travis Barker)
14. The Lottery (feat. Caleb Shomo)
15. Darkness Bleeds, FOTF
16. To Feel Something
Utah Rock heavyweights The Used return for their heavily anticipated eighth studio album, 'Heartwork', their first for producer John Feldmann’s label Big Noise Records and the first album to feature new guitarist Joey Bradford.
The album opens on single ‘Paradise Lost, a Poem By John Milton’, which is a stark contrast to the melancholy, heart-wrenching opening track of 2017’s 'The Canyon', ‘For You’. ‘Paradise Lost, a Poem By John Milton’ is a Punk song through and through, akin to the band’s earlier work on albums like 'In Love And Death', which is recurrent throughout the album. Vocalist Bert McCracken stated “The new album plays on the emotions, the sincerity, and the vulnerability of the first record and 'In Love and Death', with a little bit of the flair from 'Lies For The Liars'.” which is driven in within the opening minutes of the album, with ‘Paradise Lost, a Poem By John Milton’. It begins with an undeniable Punk riff before slowing down for a second in the first verse for you to reflect on the first words from McCracken, “To whom it may concern, and all the tragic we’ve been through”. The riff then comes crashing back in, leading into the chorus and energetic solo.
This is then followed by the album’s lead single, ‘Blow Me’, which features Fever 333 frontman Jason Aalon Butler. ‘Blow Me’ ramps up the energy to eleven with Bradford providing an unrelenting riff, proving himself as an incredible addition to The Used, and the fervent drums from Dan Whitesides that par excellently with Jeph Howard’s bassline. This track would be a standout track for the band in itself, but the feature from Butler elevates it to another level with his signature screams and high-octane attitude in the breakdown. It’s a powerhouse of a song that I fell in love with almost instantly, as a fan of both The Used and Fever 333.
The album throws its first curveball after this with ‘BIG, WANNA BE’, taking on more Pop and Electronic elements while maintaining the same attitude The Used have become known for. This song shows that they’re not afraid to experiment, especially in the reggae-esque section halfway through the song. I was left stunned the first time I heard this song, feeling that it was completely out of left-field, but it works extremely well. McCracken himself said “I think music is so all over the place right now that The Used fits in perfectly.”
‘Bloody Nose’ brings the album back to a more Rock-centric sound for a second, with a track that is fast and energetic but also creeping and winding, with an anthemic chorus that will get stuck in your head. This song also introduces strings into the mix of 'Heartwork', offsetting the underlying aggression that is present. It's not the most aggressive track on the album, but the energy is still irrefutable.
There are perhaps two most shocking songs on the album, the first coming in the form of ‘Wow, I Hate This Song’, which lulls you into a false sense of security with its ballad-like feeling that you could almost slow dance to, but the lyrics filled ire tell you otherwise. I’d describe it as the perfect Anti-Pop song, with the abrasive backing screams in the chorus setting it apart. The second is ‘Clean Cut Heals’, which is a fully fledged Synth-Pop dance song, but it still works extremely well in the context of the album, which left my jaw on the floor.
‘1984 (Infinite Jest)’ and ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ are both songs that remind me of 'Lies For The Liars'. ‘1984 (Infinite Jest)’ rises and falls with strings and whispered vocals leading into a brilliant, bouncy riff that makes you want to move, and a piano section that in a way sounds like it could be an Elton John song. ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ is a sweeping orchestral track, with its quieter string sections reminding me of ‘The Bird And The Worm’ which transition into the absolutely massive, soaring chorus.
‘The Lighthouse (Featuring Mark Hoppus)’ and ‘Obvious Blasé (Featuring Travis Barker)’ take on a more Pop Punk direction. ‘The Lighthouse’ has a more 80s influenced Pop Punk sound, almost like the album 'Astoria' by Marianas Trench in the chorus. This song shows off how much range every member of The Used has, in particular McCracken, who’s vocals pair extremely well with Hoppus. ‘Obvious Blasé’ would sound at home in the discography of the likes of Fall Out Boy or Panic! At The Disco, which is by no means an insult to The Used, but a testament to how diverse they can make their music.
The album shifts again after this. ‘The Lottery (Featuring Caleb Shomo)’ goes from being an energetic Rock song to one of the heaviest tracks on the album in an instant, with Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo adding another brilliant feature to his belt in a furious breakdown. ‘Darkness Bleeds, FOTF’ is a song that is sure to become a fan favourite and live staple for the band. It keeps the energy from ‘The Lottery’ going in spectacular fashion for the majority of its four minute length, before slowing slightly into a more pondering end.
The final track, ‘To Feel Something’, maintains that slower pace for the most part, before rising to a bombastic, industrial sounding conclusion that fades out, leaving you completely in awe of what you’ve spent the past forty six minutes experiencing.
An experience is definitely the best way to describe this album. Usually I focus on three or four standout tracks in a review, but I struggled to write in that style with 'Heartwork'. Producer Feldmann said "I couldn’t be more honoured or grateful to have one of my favourite bands of all time on my record label! They are one of the most influential bands of the last 20 years and we have made a career-defining album” and I honestly couldn’t say it better myself. I’ve mentioned a few other bands throughout, but The Used have managed to create something completely unique. 'Heartwork' sprawls itself over so many different genres but still feels extremely tight and cohesive. This could be the defining album of the decade and we’re only four months in. This album is unforgettable.
Website - https://theused.net/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TheUsed/
Review - Gordon Rae