The golden age of emo music has long since passed, but 2020 is seeing a massive resurgence of the post-hardcore subgenre that has taken fans on a nostalgic journey. Fall Out Boy started touring again, My Chemical Romance got back together, and just like that it feels like 2004. But what would an emo music comeback be without the trailblazers themselves? On April 24th, 2020, The Used dropped their eighth studio album, Heartwork, and it brings a whole new fuel to the rekindling of the emo scene fire.
It’s true when they say some things never change. Music is always ebbing and flowing with the times, evolving to fit what listeners cry out for: Something different, something fresh. But there’s also a craving for the familiar, for comfort in the form of nostalgia and a reminiscent trip down memory lane. What is so unique about Heartwork is that it packs in a little of both. On one hand, The Used brings a modern flair with catchy riffs and funky melodies like that of their previous album, The Canyon (2017). On the other hand, there are tracks that lead vocalist Bert McCracken’s uniquely haunting voice help to evoke similar feelings of pain, passion, and intensity that captivated listeners from the release of the band’s self-titled album (2001) and equally popular In Love and Death (2004). This shift in creative direction seems to be in direct correlation with the return of longtime producer John Feldman, the same man who produced the band’s albums until 2014. After his departure, The Used albums took on a different, more artistically creative sound that swam in similar waters as Halsey and Paramore. With Feldman back in the mix, this new release finds itself settled in a happy medium, still pushing the boundaries creatively but staying closer to home, pulling more from their roots.
Fans of The Used, new and old, will have no trouble finding tracks they resonate with as this new release boasts a generous 16 tracks. Listeners looking for something to dance around their kitchen to will have Clean Cut Heals on repeat, and diehard fans of In Love and Death will be adding Gravity’s Rainbow to their list of new favorites. Four of the tracks feature guest artist performances, including Jason Aalon Butler (Fever 333), Mark Hoppus (blink-182), Travis Barker (blink-182), and Caleb Shomo (Beartooth). The Lighthouse featuring Hoppus errs on the more poppy side of the album, much more lighthearted than the accompanying tracks, but somehow manages to not feel out of place. The groovy baseline helps to elevate the song from falling into the shadows of the album and being written off as a throwaway dance tune. Obvious Blasé featuring Barker also falls into a more lighthearted side of the album’s work, but the overall sound of the track feels closer to the classic sound fans know and love from The Used. The Lottery featuring Shomo forms a perfect balance of heavy and melodic. Shomo and McCracken’s voices meld well and work together to give the track depth and texture that sets it apart from the rest of the album. However, the clear stand out of the guest tracks is far and away Blow Me featuring Butler. Playing this track takes the listener back in time. If played in conjunction with any of the tracks from their self-titled album it would fit in seamlessly. Butler’s screams compliment the melodic tone of McCracken’s vocals flawlessly and add an edge that longtime fans have been craving ever since the first few albums dropped.
Heartwork brings that perfect balance of edgy, dark lyrical content paired with catchy, playful melodies that fans have grown to know and love. Though the album is a little all over the map style-wise, The Used has made something truly special that sets them up for further growth in the future while holding on to the roots that got them to this point in the first place.
The Used is comprised of vocalist Bert McCracken, bassist Jeph Howard, drummer Dan Whitesides, and guitarist Joey Bradford. Their new album, Heartwork, via BIG NOISE/ Hassle Records is out now.