The past few years have been mixed for The Used. With guitarist Quinn Allman leaving three years ago, the Utah rockers followed that up by celebrating their 15th anniversary. Nevertheless, the intervening years haven’t been kind to frontman Bert McCracken. The tragic loss of a close friend, Tregen Lewis, serves as the catalyst for their seventh album – ‘The Canyon’.
Stretched across 17 songs, it is undoubtedly their most ambitious (and demanding) album to date. McCracken lays it all out on the line as he battles his internal thoughts. ‘For You’ immediately sets the personal tone of the record with a weeping McCracken explaining the songs meaning to producer Ross Robinson, before singing a harmonious, acoustic tribute to his childhood friend.
As the album settles into its stride, the quartet provides a flurry of energetic rock that is delivered with an underlying groove. ‘Broken Windows’ being an early highlight with dynamic guitar work from Justin Shekosk. While ‘Funeral Post’ thrives off Jeph Howard’s bass lines as McCracken shows a willingness to move on.
While ‘The Canyon’ weaves in and out of McCracken exercising his demons, ‘Upper Falls’ and ‘About You’ are filled with guilt as he reminisces of Tregen and former girlfriend, Kate, who died 13 years ago while pregnant.
There are flashes of The Used of old on ‘Rise Up Lights’, ‘Selfies in Aleppo’ and the prog-infused ‘Moving the Mountains (Odysseus Surrenders)’. However, this is certainly a band that has evolved. Leadoff single, ‘Over and Over Again’, rides on an infectious guitar melody, showing a poppier side. ‘The Quiet War’ rumbles along with subtle atmospherics and ‘Moon-dream’ is dominated by sweet orchestral instruments.
The combination of its heavy lyrical nature and lengthy runtime makes ‘The Canyon’ a daunting listen, yet leaves you compelled. The internal battle of pain and happiness has resulted in a collection of therapeutic and cathartic songs. For all his struggles, McCracken and his band show defiance on ‘The Canyon’. As he proclaims “I know we are the used, but not defeated” on ‘The Nexus’, this is a band embarking on a bold new chapter.
‘The Canyon’ by The Used is out now on Hopeless Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)