Album Review: The Used - 'Vulnerable'

1 April 2012 | 4:24 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

The Used reemerge with a diverse rock record and a bag full of new tricks.

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It’s got dubstep, it’s got snoring and heck, and it’s even got a beat-boxing interlude. I thought I knew what to expect from The Used, but ‘Vulnerable packs a handful of surprises that manages to set it apart from the hoi polloi of emo-rock music.

They say a change of scenery can do wonders, and it seems settling into their new home at Hopeless Records has done little to stifle The Used’s creative juices. It’s kooky, strange and quite frankly, a lot of it has a cabaret sound that wouldn’t be at all out of place in a Tim Burton film, but that’s what makes the group an unpredictable entity.

I Come Alive” is the band’s first single from ‘Vulnerable’ and after having given the record a play through, it was the obvious choice. It’s the opener and it offers just a bite of what to you’re getting into. The dubstep verse alone was enough to make me mutter “wait, what?” But it also had me expecting the unexpected. Plus, I Come Alive has a great chorus, with a big, epic feel that is missing from a lot of their other energetic helpings.

I feel the record, despite not having an overly darkly feel, comes from a murky place in terms of lyricism. Bert McCracken is no stranger to penning some curious, quirky shit, and ‘Vulnerable’ is no exception. From suicidal leanings to letting go; it’s at times a pretty thematically driven album.

Along with the drops ‘n’ wombles in “I Come Alive”, the record relies at times on McCracken’s synthesizer work. Shine is an electronically-aided track that’s driven in the verses by machines; but that’s not to say that The Used didn’t get work done as the album went on. Now That You’re Dead” is an explosive track that bursts onto the scene after a haunting, sample-laden introductory minute. It’s a pretty sick track that ultimately culminates in snoring over ringing out instruments. It’s bizarre, but typically The Used.

Like the preceding tracks, from “Give Me Love all the way through to the closing moments of “Together Burning Bright”, the remainder of ‘Vulnerable is a solid rock record that at times calls to mind Escape the Fate and, at points, Memphis May Fire.

Be sure to keep a keen ear listening for the truly hilarious – but at the same time brilliant – “Kinda Hectic” interlude that sneaks into the final moments of Kiss It Goodbye”. I know, beat-boxing on an emo-rock record? The end must be nigh.

I’ve never really considered myself a fan of The Used, having only casually dabbled in some of their earlier hits like “The Bird and The Worm”, but ‘Vulnerable’ is a surprisingly diverse, eclectic and electrifying record that should do well to please long-term listeners. It might even do enough to hook in a few new fans, who knows? It won’t win any album of the year accolades, but it’s a serviceable album from a crafty veteran that continues to teach itself new tricks.

1. I Come Alive
2. This Fire
3. Hands and Faces
4. Put Me Out
5. Shine
6. Now That You're Dead
7. Give Me Love
8. Moving On
9. Getting Over You
10. Kiss it Goodbye
11. Hurt No More
12. Together Burning Bright