When you mention The Used pretty much everyone’s first thoughts are the classic Emo/screamo/punk singalong in your face angst albums In Love and Death & Lies For The Liars, but those albums are 13 & 10 years old respectively, the used have always been active though, releasing a new album at least every 3 years since their self titled debut in 2002, with their 2014 album Imaginary Enemy being a politically motivated rock album but with still plenty of balls and some interesting pop variety, I was curious to hear what their new album The Canyon would be.
Watching some interviews with the band about this album before diving into it, singer Bert McCracken talks about growing up in Utah and most of his childhood memories involving canyons and how recently a friend of his took his own life in the same canyon he was reminiscing about, and how this album is about trying to capture the yin and yang of happiness and sadness and trying to capture the bigger questions of mortality.
Well they’ve got a lot of album to try and convey it over, because The Canyon is a double album, with both CD’s total play time coming in just short of 80 minutes (78:59 (thanks Wikipedia)) so I will admit I’ve only listened to this concept album twice all the way through and gone back and listened too a few tracks additional times, so with all large concept albums I’m sure there’s room to become more absorbed, I’d recommend lying down on the floor with the lights out and playing this though your stereo and listening carefully.
WAIT…what? Lying down? Dark room? Concept album? The Used? Surely I should be breaking out the straightener and redoing my nail polish while getting pumped to yell along to the chorus at the top of my lungs?
Well, yer I’m not sure if this album is directly comparable to previous releases too The Used, there’s a bit of obvious progression from the more poppy/mellow moments on Imaginary Enemy, that’s not to say there aren’t singalong choruses and some rocky moments but it’s far less angry and angst then previous The Used albums.
This is also the first album not to feature previous guitarist and founding member Quinn Allman with Justin Shekoski previously a member of Saosin handling guitar duties for this album
The Pre-released Single for the album “Over And Over Again” seems to be quite divisive to fans of the band, The Used are definitely attempting to re-invent them selves, or grow up how ever you want to see it, and that can be hear in the structure and approach to the songwriting with a lot of the songs being similar in style to this single.
The album opens in the middle of very emotional recording of singer Bert McCracken talking about what he would do or say if he had 5 minutes too hold the hand with a person who has passed away, and how he feels about the lyrics too a song (the song he’s about to play we find out) and then very live, like we’re talking “OK ready?” “recording” guitar being picked up, pick being pulled out for the strings, as live and raw as you possibly can get, and then launching into a vocal & guitar piece which slowly brings in a string quartet, the level of emotion that can be heard in this take is breathtaking. Although I will say it’s an odd choice to start the album and if you where expecting to come in swinging well tough luck we’re lugging on crying.
The second song on the album “Cold War Telescreen” starts with guitar feed back and some powerful rock drumming, giving you a OHHH YER here comes that The Used wall of guitar tone power-chord riff, Well it breaks into what I can only describe as a The Mars Volta style riff, and the rest of the song continues in that vain, but with a decently catchy chorus,
There’s too many songs on this double album so I’m not going to go through and give my thoughts on each album, the main question is; did they achieve what they set out to achieve with this concept album and is it a good album?
I’ll admit I wasn’t big on it the first listen though but quite enjoyed it the second, this album is definitely a grower, don’t expect any of the songs to make you want to jump around or yell, but there is good songwriting and music to be found on this double album, I feel a lot of people who love the early The Used will have no interest in most of this album, and I’d say skip it, but if you want to hear what a band growing up/evolving & writing a very emotional album, that has both elements of rock, punk, pop & even prog I’d say defiantly give this album a dive into.
DO NOT just look up one song on YouTube and make your decision, try diving into it, you might like my self find yourself pleasantly surprised what grows on you.
I don’t really want to give this a score due to how different my thoughts where from the first and second listen but if pushed it’s a good album but maybe not the album fans of The Used want.