The Used – “Imaginary Enemy”

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Grade: C+

Key Tracks: “Revolution” “Cry”

Do you like the Used? If you do, you’ll probably like this, their sixth album. If you don’t like the Used, then this won’t win you over. The Used are one of the modern examples in music of sticking to a template. Songs from this album sound interchangeable with their 2002 debut, and any album in between. Fans know what to expect: some chaotic, occasionally violent songs, coupled with some slower, occasionally meaningful emo ballads. This album is a little more coherent than their past few offerings, and might by that logic actually be one of their better albums.

This album is more coherent because it takes itself as a whole, not as a collection of a dozen or so songs. The band takes a political agenda here, whatever exactly it may be. It’s a little more rooted in anarchist punk than what the band is used to. It’s often pretty vague, calls to action with group vocals, etc. But it only gets groan-y once, on “Evolution,” with the line “Call me a criminal / If thinking’s a crime.” Otherwise, the emo group goes via street punk, fed up with the current state and trying to inspire change.

The Used have always had a topheavy problem. Every single one of their albums has gotten off to a strong, energetic start for the first three to five songs, only to weigh it down with some questionable, usually overly conventional slower tracks. “Imaginary Enemy” is no different, although some of the slower tracks are better than normal. “Make Believe” and the title track are two that aren’t constantly upping the ante, but serve as reasonably likable album tracks. There are only a couple bombs, and they’re less overtly bad as they are just easy to get distracted from. The balance is still off, though, between the fast and the slow, and the album suffers from a poor tracklisting, as every other one has in the past.

The Used aren’t a band that is going to take big risks. Straying too far from their comfort zone would probably be a bad idea for them. So to see them move just a little towards a prominent theme and a little more direct punk sound is refreshing. While the album is still very imbalanced (and with a few songs that don’t fit thematically), it is better than the two stale previous efforts. The band has settled into being comfortable with the audience they have, and Used fans – and probably only Used fans – should be happy with “Imaginary Enemy” overall.

-By Andrew McNally

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