THE USED – Heartwork
Released: April 24th, 2020
Bert McCracken // Vocals
Jeph Howard // Bass & Backing Vocals
Dan Whitesides // Drums & Backing Vocals
Joey Bradford // Guitar & Backing Vocals
Who would have thought that 2020 would be the year that the world went into quarantine! You know what else 2020 is the year of? The year of the resurgence of the emo bands of the early 2000s, and The Used is no exception. Coming off 2017’s The Canyon, an album full of emotion and passion, 2020 brings us Heartwork. Heartwork also sees The Used reunite with legendary producer, John Feldman, as well as some awesome collaborations which include Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker of Blink-182, Jason Aalon Butler of Fever 333 and Caleb Shomo of Beartooth. Heartwork also sees the band’s first album with guitarist Joey Bradford.
It’s rare for me that an album starts with a song that I automatically love, but in the case of ‘Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton’ I was immediately hooked! When it was initially released in February, I listened to it at least three times a day. I’ve always been a fan of Bert McCracken’s vocals, and this track is no exception. I was also really drawn to the guitar riff that really drives the song and even with their new guitarist Joey Bradford, bassist Jeph Howard and drummer Dan Whitesides work fantastically together musically. I recommend turning this track up nice and loud and jumping up and down in your bedroom to really get the feel of it. Next up is ‘Blow Me’ which features guest vocals from former letlive. and current Fever 333 vocalist Jason Aalon Butler. It has a bit more of punk and grunge feel to it and I really appreciate the juxtaposition between the clean and screamed vocals. I’m a total sucker for a heavy breakdown in a track as well and ‘Blow Me’ is just full of them.
The Used are really good at having variation in their music styles and track 3, ‘BIG WANNA BE’ is completely different musically from the first two tracks. It’s slower, and a bit heavier in parts, and then lighter in other parts. I look forward to hearing this one live and hearing a packed crowd screaming along to the chorus ‘I wanna be big!’. ‘Bloody Nose’ is track four and features orchestral arrangements in parts, and some really big sounding drums throughout. The track actually really made me think of Sleeping With Sirens, and being a massive fan of them? I really enjoyed this one! Track five, ‘Wow, I Hate This Song’, and no, that’s not my opinion, it’s just what the track is called! The way this one starts, you don’t expect it to carry on and end the way that it does. ‘My Cocoon’ is up next and it starts with a really pretty piano riff and immediately put me in a really emotionally vulnerable place. The track is only a minute long, but if it can make you emotional in that short of a time, clearly the guys are doing something right. ‘I think music is so all over the place right now that The Used ﬁts in perfectly’ says McCracken about the record and John Feldmann’s production, and ‘Cathedral Bell’ really fits in with that aesthetic. If The Used had released ‘Youngblood’ by 5 Seconds Of Summer, this is what it would have sounded like. I’m pretty sure there is a harp being played on this track as well which is actually kinda cool.
‘1984 (Infinite Jest)’ is an infinitely interesting track. The sound is a little bit Panic! At The Disco and a little bit Set It Off and I’m pretty sure there’s a casual dig at My Chemical Romance with the lyric ‘the prettiest corpse is the real black parade’ but I could also be reading a little too much into it. Maybe decide for yourselves what you think of that one. I really enjoy the haunting, whispered vocal of ‘Ignorance is this’ throughout as well. Just adds another layer into the track I think. Track 9 is ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ and it starts off with a violin I believe before the heavy AF guitars come in. There’s a real juxtaposition of musical styles on this track, but the emotion and power that Bert has with his vocals really ties the whole thing together. ‘Clean Cut Heals’ is next up and if you had told me 5 years ago I’d want to dance to a track by The Used I would have told you you were crazy, HOWEVER, that is exactly what ‘Clean Cut Heals’ makes me want to do. There’s a really cool funk sound to the chorus of this track and the lyric ‘a clean cut heals more beautiful’ is something I can really relate to.
‘Heartwork’ is track 11 and it’s again one of the shorter songs on the record. The track is mostly Bert McCracken speaking about the violence of kindness with a lot of ambience happening underneath it. ‘The Lighthouse’ is track 12 and the best way to describe it is emotional. Both Bert and guest vocalist Mark Hoppus deliver the lyrics in such a raw, emotional way and it hits you right in the heart. I’m a sucker for a track that punches you emotionally in the face and ‘The Lighthouse’ does that the whole way through. The chorus lyric ‘I can be your lighthouse’ being one of the specific lyrics that I really related to and felt. There’s also some really nifty guitar work going on in this track as well from Joey. ‘Obvious Blasé’ is up next and it’s actually really cool to have Travis Barker featuring on a track that comes immediately after bandmate Mark Hoppus features. This is probably the most pop-punk track on the record and being a huge emo kid, that may be why it’s probably my second favourite track on the record. This track also features my favourite bassline on the record so big props to Jeph Howard for that one! The final of the guest features on the record comes in the form of Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo on track 14, ‘The Lottery’. It’s heavy and guitar and drum driven and brilliant. The breakdown on this track is 10/10 and if you don’t throw yourself into it 100% you’re doing it wrong.
‘Darkness Bleeds, FOTF’ is the second to last track on the record and Dan Whitesides goes absolute ham on the speed of the drums throughout. The drums really open up this track and again, it sounds massive in my opinion. Sonically the track is really cool and I was definitely jamming out at my laptop while I was writing this, and I look forward to summer coming back around so I can play it loud as I drive around. The last track on the record is ‘To Feel Something’ and it’s brutally honest, emotional and shows the bands vulnerability and sincerity. It’s a really nice way to round out what is a fantastic record and I give massive props to Bert, Jeph, Adam and Joey for the effort they’ve put in.
Overall, Heartwork has helped me to fall back in love with The Used all over again. The band sound so tight and it really harks back to their earlier records In Love and Death and Lies For The Liars and I am 110% here for it. The production quality is also really high on this record and you can tell that the band and John Feldmann worked super hard for the record to sound the way that it does. I’ve never been as excited for a release from The Used until now.
The Used – Heartwork tracklisting:
- Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton
- Blow Me feat. Jason Aalon Butler
- BIG WANNA BE
- Bloody Nose
- Wow, I Hate This Song
- My Cocoon
- Cathedral Bell
- 1984 (Infinite Jest)
- Gravity’s Rainbow
- Clean Cut Heals
- The Lighthouse feat. Mark Hoppus
- Obvious Blasé feat. Travis Barker
- The Lottery feat. Caleb Shomo
- Darkness Bleeds, FOTF
- To Feel Something