The Used-Vulnerable

The Used's self-titled debut album remains, ten years on, one of the best and most visceral albums produced in the world of post-hardcore, its scissor-kick defiance and bruised upliftingness still sounding as vital today as it ever did. It's an album that defines a time and a place while still feeling timeless.

In 2012 the Utah quartet are a rather different beast with their sound having taken a subtle change in route following the departure of drummer Branden Steineckert in 2006. Taking the soaring fire of their original sound and merging it with a more theatrical grandiose element has caused a noticeable divide between the likes of The Taste of Ink and The Bird And The Worm. Vulnerable their fifth album is of the quality we've come to expect from the band and the formula of their previous two albums essentially stays intact. One of the most noticeable differences here however is frontman Bert McCracken's lyricsm which seems to be exercising hurt slowly out from within to move towards a more stable light, instead of his classic catharsis integral to keeping himself mentally afloat.

The first half of the album leans towards the isolation and separation one can feel such as in Hands And Faces where Bert "can't feel anything at all" and his fire has been "put out like a cigarette" in the raging Put Me Out. But a positivity then appears out of nowhere on the following track Shine in which Bert puts his anger and disappointment to one side and believes that "change doesn't happen by itself" and this is his "chance to shine", it's a sudden lyrical shift that sheds light on the older married Bert McCracken of today. As the successor to Put Me Out's swirling flames, Shine is a big-chorused optimistic track with dancing fret-work from ever-creative guitarist Quinn Allman, it lends the album back a sense of versatility from their earlier work that may not have been so present on 09's Artwork. It's a feel that runs as an undercurrent throughout the album, Now That You're Dead is full of hate with distorted blasts of noise and signature Bert bile while two tracks later Moving On returns to the optimism with the accepting belief that "nothing lasts forever" accompanying a huge melody. Slow-burning closer Together Burning Bright bringing this hopefulness and positivity to its logical conclusion.

The use of electronics in the album's twelve songs is also new ground for The Used and at times it can grate with its consistent use, sometimes threatening to mar the emotional impact of the songs on display. The fact that the band can alternatively also sometimes pull it off extremely well compliments their bravery to try new things this far into their career, and such stylistic shifts make you feel like you're in a familiar place but with new inhabitants for the senses to take in, allowing the record a fresh quality.

This isn't too far removed from The Used of the past five years but still introduces new features to make it a sure-fire step forward in the band's career. While it's unlikely to bring back fans of the first two albums it's an immersive and enjoyable piece if work that begins to properly reveal itself on multiple listens. An intriguing and brave record.