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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Used - The Ocean of the Sky EP - ALBUM REVIEW

GENRES: Hardcore Rock, Alternative Rock, Pop-Punk, Hardcore Punk, Post-Hardcore

TOP TRACKS: Iddy Biddy

Utah's Post-Hardcore/Alternative superstars, the Used are some of the rawest and most intense musicians in their genre but are quite carelessly written off as "emo" or even sometimes "pop-punk". What makes the Used better than bands like Panic at the Disco! or August Burns Red is not just that they are somewhere in the middle of those two types of music, but of all the bands that you would see at your local "Warped Tour" show, the Used just happened to sound better than most thanks to their huge drum sounds, wailing guitars and of course lead singer Bert McCracken's angst-filled shrieking.

Last year in 2012, the Used released their fifth studio album Vulnerable and it was pretty intense and full of the usual tricks that the Used delivered early in their career but if it lacked anything it would be variation and overall creative direction. The group announced earlier in 2013 that they were hard at work recording their sixth studio album and although that is slated to drop sometime in early 2014, the Used left their fans with this new EP,  The Ocean of the Sky and quite frankly I'm really not sure if I should thank them.

Overall, The Ocean of the Sky is a definite change in sound for the Used but definitely not for the better. As most mainstream punk/hardcore bands seem to be doing, the Used are trying to slow things down and release music that I'm sure they feel is more artistically pleasing and diverse. However this really isn't the case. The third track on this EP, "Thought Criminal" is slower, chiller but definitely cooler. I don't see the point. The Used have never proven to be a band for poignancy and there is definitely a reason why. With the tools they have and the skills they possess, the Used cannot slow things down effectively and here's why. The triggered drum sound is the same on each track. Which means that the snare hits are bigger, they kicks are punchier and overall the dynamics are not fitting of this slower tempo. Also, the guitars are definitely holding back on this track. This sounds very awkward and not very good. Finally, Bert's voice proves to be MUCH more annoying in this new dynamic change. He's trying way to hard to sound sincere and this comes off as whining. When he yells and screams passionately, I can tell he really is being passionate but here not so much.

I did love the opening track "Iddy Biddy". Right from the get-go the guitars break loose like animals that have been caged for life. The drums pound through a powerful verse with some excellent vocals. And that chorus has an outstanding payoff with the hook. Overall this track is a winner for the Used. It will please old fans of the band and definitely reel in some new fans. However, I can't exactly say the same for "Quixotica". Although it tries to be as intense as "Iddy Biddy", this track comes off as a bit lifeless and very simple in terms of chord progression and songwriting. The vocal melody is pretty ordinary as well.

My biggest problem with The Ocean of the Sky would have to be the waste and filler room on the EP.  The title track is boring to me. It is definitely the weakest track. To me it seemed absolutely pointless and to make things worse, the last few minutes of the track are filler space as well. The Final track, Tethys is 20 minutes long but it can hardly be called an epic or a masterpiece of any kind. Essentially is sounds like the Used are trying to mimic the ambient or drone-like qualities of music that allowed bands like Radiohead and Nine-Inch Nails to become successful. This doesn't really sound psychedelic per say but it is dreary and a bit ominous. One thing I can say that is that is much too long. There is a reason that Radiohead made "Treefingers" only a few minutes long and that is because sounds and music of that type tend to not be widely accepted in today's musical market. Now I for one am all for sticking it to the corporate jerks who stifle the creativity of music but this really isn't that meaningful of a track. Are the Used trying new things like this simply for the sake of changing their sound? If so they are not pursuing creativity for the right reasons and I think that really shows on The Ocean of the Sky. Yet, I still look forward to the next album from the Used who still standout as one of the best acts in their genre despite this somewhat empty and lacking EP.

FINAL SCORE: 5. 5 / 10