The Used thrashes back with medicority in Vulnerable

By Jason Dafnis

It’s a heartwarming sight when bands popular in the 2000s retain artistic integrity and freshness almost ten years down the line (see also: My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, and 30 Seconds to Mars). Following that logic, The Used’s new album, Vulnerable, is positively heartbreaking.

Don’t get me wrong; The Used’s 2002 self-titled debut album is a masterpiece. Its follow-up, In Love and Death, was a logical step forward and a pleasure to listen to. With those two releases, The Used cemented themselves as part of the cornerstone of modern emo rock. 2007’s Lies for the Liars, caught the ears of listeners with a fresh take on the genre, essentially delivering an emo/rock/creepy jazz vibe (the baritone sax in With Me Tonight still gives me chills). Let’s just agree to make this our one mention of 2009’s subpar Artwork.

Unfortunately, Vulnerable does none of this. It throws away the laurels upon which the band once rested and picks up a compromising, conforming sound. The whole album adopts the formulaic metalcore format (intro riff, filler verse, catchy chorus, breakdown bridge, chorus, end) perfected by recent Chiodos and D.R.U.G.S. releases, but in a manner that feels more cookie-cutter than innovation.

Lyrically, the album consists of regular Used fare (plenty of bleeding, breathing, and hearts beating with a dash of fire here and there), but somehow makes it feel more sappy and less personal than ever before. It’s not as if previous albums really told stories, per se, but Vulnerable feels like it couldn’t do so if it wanted to. This is Used lyricism par mediocrity.
So, what’ve you got? Catchy-yet-forgettable melodies laid over block chords with some sludgy guitar riffs for flavor. If My Chemical Romance proved anything with 2010’s Danger Days, it’s that “old” bands can revive themselves in exciting, new ways. Though Vulnerable is new for The Used, it ultimately amounts to bland, minor-key metalcore that leaves a listener’s ears wanting substance. It’s not necessarily bad; it’s just uninteresting, however easy-to-listen-to it may be. Moreover, it’s disappointing to fans expecting progress from previous releases rather than the senseless retrograde with which they’re greeted
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