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The Used—Heartwork

by Tom Springer

The Used have always been a band that has played around with their sound. From their debut heavy screamo self titled album that helped bring forth the genre to the mainstream with songs like The Taste Of Ink that saw regular radio play to their electronic driven 2013 album Vulnerable an album that I admittedly slept on. 2017’s The Canyon saw the biggest deviation to the band’s style almost completely ditching the atmosphere, electronics, and heaviness for a straightforward and stripped down rock album. It was something that was certainly successful but had many including myself yearning for the past. It’s possible that either The Used heard the cries of fans or themselves were feeling nostalgic because Heartwork brings back a lot of the classic sound while embracing modern day trends.

Heartwork certainly digs into the past with the atmospheric orchestral sounds in Infinite Jest (1984) combined with a creepy bass line. It’s a song that would have felt right at home on Lies For The Liars. Yet the song also manages to be a bit progressive (for the band and whatever genre they fall into now) by playing with your expectations a bit, never really dropping the chorus you expect instead having the instrumentals drop out with only Bert McCraken’s vocals to keep you company. The softer guitar work and tuning sounds like something right off of In Love And Death complete with the bombastic emo/post hardcore chorus which really shows off what the band can do. 

For all the digging through the past that the band does they also manage to push things forward as well. Aside from the aforementioned playfulness of Infinite Jest (1984) songs like the spoken word title track and the fairly stripped down mostly piano and electronic ending track To Feel Something not only offer up fans a refreshing take on the band’s sound but also really let Bert McCraken’s voice shine and just truly demonstrate the range that he has. Even the more mainstream borderline pop rock songs like Lighthouse which features Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus manage to sneak in a few unexpected but welcome moments.

Overall Heartwork shows that a band like The Used that’s been around so long at this point can still manage to look to their past while simultaneously embracing their future. It’s an album that’s sure to please fans and newcomers alike. While not every song is a hit the album is pretty solid through and through with no bad apples to poison the bunch. Any fans of the band or screamo and post hardcore in general should check it out, The Used have once again shown why they’ve lasted as long as they have.

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