Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Review: The Used - Vulnerable

 Possibly the kings of emo pop music as we know it, at least they've become one of the bands to take the Emo genre and give it the most engaging array of poppy hooks and dynamic digital effects, Utah's the used make a joyous, uplifting return on their fifth album Vulnerable, an outlook that seems necessary within the group, particularly following the reports of frontman Bert McCracken's lapse into painkiller addiction. This album basically sees him laying out his life and moving towards a sense of positivity. The result, not so bad. His life's clearly back on the line.

 So the album is very much the tale of how McCracken has managed to get his life back on line and his message in lead single I Come Alive emphasizes this effectively as he calls out "When I'm there, at the edge/ In this moment I feel it I know/ Come alive when I'm feeling down." Sighs. part of me wants to laugh at the entire whiny emo nature of it all, but of course, there's a more serious nature behind this in relation to real life, so I can't just scoff in it's face, I guess. But without knowing of all these personal traumas within the band there is a lot of lyrical content across Vulnerable that wouldn't look out of place on a poster of some kind with a background image that in no way relates to the message. If you don't know what I mean, look up Go Cry Emo Kid. They mock those posters all the time.
 The musical performance across the album is, like Bert, very much alive on this album. The band deliver some of their biggest choruses and shiniest hooks to date as tracks like Hands and Faces and Moving On explode into massive sing along choruses with an extremely uplifting outlook. Their emo pop performance is near pure perfection, but Now That You're Dead and Give Me Love also give the group the chance to release their punk and post-hardcore ethics as well. The rapid fire performance on these tracks make them the most pulsing experience of the album.
 The use of electronics have always been prominent in the work of The Used and it's certainly no exception here. They may be at their most prominent on this album and some songs feature verse sections using only synthesizers to accompany McCracken's messages. Some electronic parts even take a dubstep influence. Not real dubstep by any means, but do feature the kind of swirling synthesizers that often appear in the dubstep-rock collages. There's also a more traditional element in backing music as well and the string backdrop on This Fire echoes The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby in a manner that is subtle as a brick.
 The album isn't filled with highlights by any means and very often when ballads are attempted to be pulled off, the overall result is pretty tedious and painful such as the desperately whiny Getting Over You and the weak sing-along closer Together Burning Bright.
 Overall, Vulnerable sees The Used making a return on what is very much a creative high returning to positive ground with an air of recklessness about them while maintaining poppy songs filled with hooks. Sometimes the levels of positivity aim a little to high and the overall result feels over-sugary and annoying and sometimes a bit whiny, but this is a fine return to form from a band with a frontman who has been in desperate need of a positive kick-start in life.

 The Used's Vulnerable is out now via Anger Records. The band will tour the UK in April.

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