The Used

Imaginary Enemy

Written by: TL on 01/04/2014 23:53:41

As a jaded old critic I'm not sure how to make sense of the fact that The Used are still a largely successful rock band in 2014 - I mean how do new generations of paranoid teenagers persistently get interested in Bert McCracken and his friends as their older peers inevitably move on? With "Imaginary Enemy", the band's fifth album with producer John Feldmann and sixth overall since their debut in 2001, there's relatively little new happening in the band's universe. With the emo wave diluting under the band at some point between 04's "In Love And Death" and 09's "Artwork", the band has simply carried on, returning regularly with new servings of heavy-handed "us-vs.-them" themed pop-rock, always carefully worded with enough grimey lyricism to give it a certain counter-cultural sheen.

For the first time in thirteen years however, once controversial singer McCracken has a new haircut. Other than that though, "Imaginary Enemy" sees him and his band up to their traditional tricks. "All revolutions are impossible 'til they happen. Then they become inevitable. proclaims a sample in the hard-pumped opener "Revolution", before giving way to "Cry", which is perhaps the best song The Used have written in some years. A peculiar guitar signature piques your interest as McCracken whispers and chants his way across threatening guitar chords and groovy bass lines that makes it feel like everyone put their best feet forward on this one and hell, the chorus is pretty good as well, so once again, The Used seem poised to evade the death stamp I have waiting for them. I mean listen to that splintering, punchy riff there at the end? That's badass, straight up!

How I feel about a song called "El-Oh-Vee-Ee", with a hook spelled out as such and plenty of run of the mill whoa-oh singing is well, somewhat less excited however, and sans a glance with danger in the bridge, it's a pedestrian balladic carry-over to a trio of songs that, no matter the production tricks and rebellious guitars, come off typically adolescent in their rallying cries. "Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh" reiterates "Generation Throwaway" before sounding every bit the forgery of a grown up singing an anthem written with high schoolers in mind, before "Make Believe" teaches us to ignore external expectations and never buy what some 'they' are selling. And those only arrive after things have already gotten comical with the super-seriously titled "A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression", which completely sells out its raw, hard rock verse energy, when coming around to it's childish "No way! No way USA!" refrain.

Such slide The Used once more down into indignant, angry posturing - a manner they simply don't carry with the necessary irresistable flamboyance of a band like for instance a comparable My Chemical Romance, who surpassed them early and burned up brightly before their time. Where Gerard Way convincingly pulled the rebel role sympathetically, Bert McCracken invariably gets tiresome, which makes it hard to stay attentive across and beyond the midsection of "Imaginary Enemy". If you manage it, you're likely to keep noticing how the strongest signs of artistic life are still restricted to the bridge sections - see for instance the dramatic, string-backed example in the otherwise timid "Evolution" - and it isn't until the closer "Overdose" underscores every other pre-chorus syllable with thick bass notes that I find my attention persistently summoned back to the album. Still, calling this a good song is a stretch, just as much as calling "Imaginary Enemy" a great album. For that it is indeed too much like the previous couple of The Used albums, in the sense that for each promising musical moment there are two or three others that feel at best generic or at worst like bitter, black-clad teenagers, raging unconstructively against a perceived machine from the back rows of civics class - Only with the added, easily digestable choruses of pop-rock of course.

6

Download: Cry
For The Fans Of: D.R.U.G.S, Madina Lake, Escape The Fate
Listen: facebook.com/TheUsed

Release date 01.04.2014
GAS Union / Hopeless

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