By Ken Hunt
Utah quartet the Used, alongside bands like Alexisonfire, have spearheaded the emo/post-hardcore movement since the early ’00s, invoking punk and alt-rock influences along the way. Like that of many popular bands, their sound has undergone subtle but noticeable changes since their self-titled release in 2002. Their maturity and musical refinement is evident on their recently released album, Artwork.
Artwork comes off a touch darker than 2005’s In Love And Death and 2007’s Lies For The Liars — less pop punk and more post-hardcore, although the screamo element remains toned down, peeking up only in the background on tracks like “Come Undone.”
As with The Used’s earlier work, the album’s lyrics deal with failed and failing relationships and there’s a sense of losing touch with life’s meaningful joys and being burdened by despair.
The listener experiences a cathartic comfort in realizing that these are universal emotional difficulties suffered by everyone at one time or another. The unique element to Artwork, however, is its portrayal of a struggle with drug addiction, obvious in the cover art and slightly less-obvious in lyrics like: “hoping you’d set me free” and “seems this disease is slowly spreading” from the track “Sold my Soul.”
Artwork‘s gritty yet refined sound proves that The Used know how to re-use and re-cycle what worked, and discard the rest.