The Used, calling for a revolution.
(The Used)

For those of us who are guilty of associating The Used with nothing more than their excellent eponymous debut album (and perhaps 'Take It Away' from 'In Love And Death'), here's a news flash for you: the band are still going. Not only this, but they've remained a successful one to boot; their last four albums have hit the US top 10, and 'Imaginary Enemy' will be the band's sixth full-length – chew on all that for a second or two.
It's fair to say that over the years their sound has changed and evolved, with a move away from the more raw, post-hardcore influenced sound of the first couple of albums, through experiments with electronica elements found since 2007's 'Lies For The Liars', to a perhaps cleaner and more straight-up punk rock feel found on this latest offering. That is not to say that this is a totally different band; when vocalist Bert McCracken's voice cracks and breaks on the edges of singing and screaming, such as during the huge chorus of 'Make Believe', close your eyes and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd been transported back twelve years, feeling those same shivers you felt as a teenager listening to 'The Used'.
Regrettably it's not all big choruses and shivers, with the likes of 'Evolution' and 'Kenna Song' feeling a little lacklustre, and a bit like album filler. This is a pity when the band clearly still have a knack for penning genuinely interesting and memorable songs, such as 'Revolution','El-Oh-Vee-Ee' and 'A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression (A Work In Progress)', which are genuinely infectious, despite some slightly tokenistic political lyrics. It's always good to see bands engaging with, and by extension, engaging their fans with political and current affairs, so The Used deserve some praise for this. But doing so without the bite of Bad Religion, the aggression of Black Flag or the wit and wisdom of Bob Dylan doesn't quite cut the mustard.
Unsophisticated political lyrics and a couple of uninspired filler tracks aside, 'Imaginary Enemy' is a broadly decent album. Whilst undoubtedly they no longer appeal to everyone who originally sought comfort in their angsty emo back in the day, what's clear is that The Used have built a fanbase who continue to support them, and who will no doubt el-oh-vee-ee this new record.
Ed Newman

Read an interview with the band about the new album in the latest issue (no. 166). Order your copy from anywhere in the world HERE.