The Used: 10 Essential Tracks
Music Feeds’ Essentials series shines a spotlight on an artist’s defining works. Here, we count down ten essential tracks from Utah emo rockers The Used, who’ve been around for more than two decades.
The Used have been poster boys for the emo and post-hardcore genres ever since they released their self-titled debut in 2002. Unlike many of their mid-aughts peers, however, The Used have continued to release new music at regular intervals over the last two decades.
Frontman Bert McCracken and bassist Jeph Howard have farewelled a few bandmates along the way, but The Used’s fanbase remains a fervent one. And such loyalty has been rewarded, with The Used counting eight studio album, three EPs and two live albums in their catalogue.
The Used will release their ninth album, Toxic Positivity, on Friday, 19th May, and the Utah band will be in Australia for a co-headline tour with Papa Roach in late April. To toast their return, we’re counting down The Used’s 10 essential tracks.
As someone who has seen The Used play live 12 times and who had the band in their Myspace top eight for many years, I feel equipped to tackle this task. To quote the words of Bert McCracken, “It’s my time to shine.”
The Used: 10 Essential Tracks
10. I Come Alive, Vulnerable (2012)
‘I Come Alive’ is an underrated belter off The Used’s fifth record, Vulnerable. The band experimented with more electronic sounds on this album, which suffuse The Used’s signature heavy rock sound on this track. While the thundering drum beats and anthemic chorus melodies are the obvious loci of appeal, it’s McCracken’s menacing cackle on the bridge that makes ‘I Come Alive’ an essential track.
Iconic lyric: “Beg forgiveness / With some words that mean nothing / Illusions like smoke in my breath.”
9. Blood On My Hands, Artwork (2009)
‘Blood On My Hands’ is written from the perspective of a serial killer, who’s detailing the adrenaline rush of their next attack and the thrill of veiling their true identity. It’s a perfect example of The Used’s ability to pair high-energy choruses with sinister imagery. It’s creepy, evocative and an absolute cracker when played live.
Iconic lyric: “Straight from your eyes it’s barely me / Beautifully so disfigured.”
8. Pretty Handsome Awkward, Lies For The Liars (2007)
I have vivid memories of the first time I heard ‘Pretty Handsome Awkward’. I was sitting on the floor of my friend’s bedroom watching Berth – The Used’s live DVD – in early 2007. The moment that rip-roaring guitar riff burst through the speakers, I swear something in my brain chemistry changed forever.
‘Pretty Handsome Awkward’ is rumoured to be a diss track written about My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. But I turn a blind eye to that because I’m also an MCR devotee and the thought of them beefing hurts too much.
Iconic lyric: “Do you feel okay? You look pretty low / Very handsome awkward.”
7. I’m A Fake, In Love And Death (2004)
There are three things that make up an exemplary The Used song: heavy guitar riffs and/or drum beats, screamo vocals and a poetic opening monologue (see: ‘Take It Away’ and ‘Revolution’). ‘I’m A Fake’ ticks all three boxes, opening with an emotional tirade of 21st Century Shakespearean proportions that includes lines like, “Would you be my little cut / Would you be my thousand fucks?”
At its core, ‘I’m A Fake’ tells a relatable story of imposter syndrome and the crippling self-doubt that McCracken experienced early in the band’s career.
Iconic lyric: “Love is not like anything / Especially a fucking knife.”
6. I Caught Fire, In Love And Death (2004)
While The Used are best-known for their songs of angst and melancholy, they also know how to write a quality love song. A sweet reprieve on the often sullen In Love And Death, ‘I Caught Fire’ is full of earnest reflections and rhapsodic lyricism about falling in love. The music video is also worth a watch.
Iconic lyric: “Let’s sleep ’til the sun burns out. I’m melting in your eyes.”
5. Buried Myself Alive, The Used (2002)
If there’s one song that encapsulates my experience of teenage angst, ‘Buried Myself Alive’ is it. Whether you interpret it as referencing a struggle with a toxic substance, a toxic person, or both, ‘Buried Myself Alive’ is about dependency, freedom and revenge. It’s another guitar-driven banger propelled by a powerful chorus that was made to scream along to.
Iconic lyric: “With my foot on your neck I finally have you / Right where I want you.”
4. All That I’ve Got, In Love And Death (2004)
‘All That I’ve Got’ is an ode to McCracken’s late Chihuahua puppy, David Bowie, who died after being hit by a car. It was McCracken’s first experience with death as a young man, and it shook him to his core. In the chorus, he reflects on the all-consuming nature of grief. Combining screamo vocals with sweeping string arrangements and an artistically macabre music video, ‘All That I’ve Got’ represents The Used at their best.
Iconic lyric: “I’ll be just fine, pretending I’m not / I’m far from lonely and it’s all that I’ve got.”
3. A Box Full Of Sharp Objects, The Used (2002)
‘A Box Full Of Sharp Objects’ embodies The Used’s chaotic and gritty beginnings. The track begins with a wave of distorted guitars and percussion, with McCracken’s vocals mutating from clean melodies on the verses to guttural screams on the chorus. The early demo of ‘A Box Full Of Sharp Objects’ was one of the first things to catch the attention of producer John Feldman, who would play a big role in the band’s success for years to come.
Iconic lyric: “Do you want a song of glory? / Well I’m fucking screaming / At you.”
2. Blue and Yellow, The Used (2002)
In the many times I’ve seen The Used live, I’ve only had the pleasure of hearing ‘Blue and Yellow’ in the flesh once. But when they did play it at their 2016 album anniversary tour in Sydney, McCracken admitted that not only is ‘Blue and Yellow’ one of his favourites but it has also saved his life.
An acoustic ballad, the song is about tension, reconciliation and friendship between McCracken and former lead guitarist Quinn Allman. It’s a gentle, tender and tear-jerking tribute that remains a fan favourite.
Iconic lyric: “Should’ve done something but I’ve done it enough / By the way your hands were shaking / Rather waste some time with you.”
1. The Taste of Ink, The Used (2002)
‘The Taste Of Ink’ was The Used’s breakout hit in 2002 and remains their most iconic track two decades later. Like a pop-punk prophecy penned in a single night, McCracken wrote the song about breaking out of the confines of Utah to make their dreams a reality.
There is something nostalgic about the hope that courses through ‘The Taste Of Ink’. It’s got a triumphant chorus, a bridge that’ll give you goosebumps, and is centred on a prediction that rang true
Iconic lyric: “So here I am, it’s in my hand / And I’ll savour every moment of this.”
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