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Killer CDs: The Used - In Love And Death 
By Chuck G

For those of us that hate it when our "boutique" band reaches "strip mall" acceptance, The Used could quite possibly be the perfect entity.

Leaders of the pack in the punk/screamo platform, Bert McKracken and the boys start on overdrive and crank it up a couple of notches from there. "In Love And Death" is particularly ambitious as it strives for mainstream inclusion, but like a drug addict spinning back into foolhardy ways, the Used rely old habits that work against their broadening horizons.

And I love it. 

Case in point, Bert's vocals. For those unfamiliar in the ways of The Used, Bert uses his performance like bait in a bear trap...easing the listener in, slowly.... slowly... slowly... with his high-pitched effort. Suddenly, the steel jaws of death snap shut and Bert explodes into a Hindenburg of hysterics...Oh the humanity.

"In Love and Death" opens with the first single/video, "Take It Away," a musical shotgun blast with Bert begging, "...take my hand, take my life" sets the tone for a hills-and-valley experience with plenty of peaks.

Clocking in 2nd is "I Caught Fire," a beautifully-written love song of sorts for those with Attention Deficit Disorder. Lyrically, The Used edge toward extremes to paint their audio pictures. 

Exhibit A: 
"In Your Eyes,
Like My First Time,
That I Caught Fire..."

Truly a love song, "I Caught Fire" is sonically-pleasing with it's chip-choppy lead intro and (eyebrow fully raised) arena rock chorus. A true pleasure of a song in this genre.

The Used show maturity and musical diversity within their first three songs. Shifting gears again with "Let It Bleed," thinly veiled drug-used references are packaged in a rocker with rhythmic verses and a lush chorus nuanced with McKracken's asylum-escapee rantings and outbursts. It makes for an extremely compelling pairing who's immediacy and relevance will not be denied.

If The Used is your taste and you're impressed with the initial 3 songs...then what follows will only continue to blow your mind. "All That I've Got" and "Cut Up Angels" are suitable b-sides for the opening three tracks but they also stand out on their own to varying degrees of success (although, the former is probably the most pandering to the Simple Plan crowd).

The grind-core growl of "Listening" and the ethereal permutation of "Yesterday's Feelings" only reinforce what an impactful band The Used actually are. Able to completely pull off a two-ends-of-the-spectrum one-two punch that are these two songs is a testament to that. 

Getting light on us is "Hard To Say." And while it may not be Journey's "Faithfully" for the skateboarding generation, "...Say" reaches with an obviously autobiographical soft touch. 

Rounding out the album is the spoken word intro to "I'm A Fake," a song which is oxymoronic. While Bert and company extol the lack of virtues for almost anybody who isn't pure and real to themselves, but just in time for the holidays, they wrap it up in punk rock ribbons and hardcore bows. But exactly who they are talking about is open for discussion.

The Used are getting a lot of buzz from this effort and deservedly so. This collection of songs is front-to-back one of the better written and produced...and TRULY punk rock...CDs to come along for a very long time.

Blink-18(who?).


CD Info 

The Used - In Love And Death
Label: Reprise
Rating
 
Tracks:
1.) Take It Away 
2.) I Caught Fire 
3.) Let It Bleed 
4.) All That I've Got 
5.) Cut Up Angels 
6.) Listening 
7.) Yesterday's Feelings 
8.) Light With A Sharpened Edge 
9.) Sound Effects and Overdramatics 
10.) Hard To Say 
11.) Lunacy Fringe 
12.) I'm A Fake 
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online


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