The Used – ‘Heartwork’ review: a dynamic and surprising adventure, and proof of their enduring legacy

2017's 'The Canyon' was a gruelling art experiment, but album eight sees the rock band bounce back into heart-pounding choruses and pop sensibilities

2020 was meant to be the year emo came back with a vengeance: the big hitters of the early noughties scene – My Chemical Romance, Bright Eyes, Weezer and Fall Out Boy – were doing ambitious tours and club nights were giving a new generation the keys to the classics. And then coronavirus hit the pause button. Resilient sentimentalists The Used never went away, though and refused to delay the release of eighth album ‘Heartwork’. Nothing will get in the way of their return to kick-ass form.

Just like their self-titled 2002 debut, The Used’s eighth album ‘Heartwork’ is full of dark, brooding songs that take pain and twist it into a call-to-arms. For close to two decades the band have pushed themselves to explore matters of the heart, from the anger of 2004’s ‘In Love and Death’ to the fractured hope of 2012’s ‘Vulnerable’. The Used have constantly fought their demons in pubic to prove to others that it can be done. ‘Heartwork’ sees them heading into battle once more.

It takes less than a minute for the drama of album opener ‘Paradise Lost’, a poem by John Milton’, to explode in a firework burst of angst-ridden frustration and that snarling energy doesn’t let up for the duration of ‘Heartwork’’s 16 tracks. ‘Blow Me’, a takedown of gun violence, sees The Used team up with Jason Aalon Butler, the frontman of hardcore political band Fever 333, to create chaos. On the emotional ‘Darkness Bleeds’, frontman Bert McCraken screams for “the fire or the flood”. The band, meanwhile, thrash out the sort of music that inspires bedroom air guitar.

‘Heartwork’, with its big choruses, is a stark contrast to 2017’s ‘The Canyon’, a gruelling art experiment, and this sense of bounce-back offers the album a free-spirited playfulness. Moments in the shimmering ‘1984 (Infinite Jest)’ would sound at home on the stages of the West End. ‘BIG, WANNA BE’ is similarly theatrical, all Fall Out Boy alt-pop and arena ambition. ‘Clean Cut Heals’ is a stomping electro number that proves The Used couldn’t care less about legacy or the people who want a sequel to their first single ‘The Taste Of Ink ’.

READ MORE: The Used share new track ‘Obvious Blasé’ and tell us about their “colourful” new album

“I just want to feel something, no different from anyone else,” McCraken sings on closer ‘To Feel Something’. Some people are going to hate the risks taken on ‘Heartwork’, but it’s exactly the same sort of danger this band has always flirted with. It’s the reason they haven’t faded away. Familiar but daring, ‘Heartwork’ is a dynamic, surprising and enjoyable adventure.


Release date: April 24

Record label: Big Noise

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