These days, it is an impressive feat when any artist can proudly announce they’re celebrating their tenth year anniversary — especially with how often musicians can be an overnight sensation and just as quickly lose their spotlight when someone newer, fresher comes along.
Even more impressive are the artists who make it beyond that ten-year milestone, as The Used have, who are celebrating their 15th year anniversary of recording music. To commemorate, the band released their seventh studio album (the first without founding member Quinn Allman), The Canyon made it’s debut Friday via Hopeless Records. If you have yet to do so, you can still secure a copy for yourself on CD or Vinyl here: http://theused.merchnow.com/
The album, produced by Ross Robinson (At The Drive In, The Cure) clocks in at just under an hour and twenty minutes, with an almost unheard of 17-tracks! The Canyon is being said to be the most raw, personal and unadulterated piece of art the band has ever released — this is the album The Used has always skirted around, threatening to put out, with their hearts on their sleeves. The Used, who have always been brash, bold and unforgiving has recorded this album entirely on tape without using a click track at the legendary Valentine Studio. This unique process was a huge success, setting the tone for the entire album which feels personal, genuine and full of emotion. The gimmicks and luxury of today’s high-end technology were obsolete in The Used’s process of hitting record and playing through each song as the band would if they were on stage — versus taking each individual component, recording, repeating, reworking. What you hear is what took place within the studio, which is emphasized by the spoken words you can hear, including Bert’s own conversation at the very start of the album. There is an unremarkable depth to the album, one much deeper than even some of the existing, non-metaphorical canyons.
“There’s the idea of a canyon being the Yin and Yang of slow times during the blink of an eye that we have here on this planet,” McCracken says. “I think it’s really hard for humans to think about long amounts of time, like what it would take to carve a canyon with water. Also, the canyon that I grew up next to, Provo Canyon, is where I made a lot of really heartwarming childhood memories with my family. It’s also where a good friend of mine took his life last year — in the same canyon where I found freedom from the beliefs that I was indoctrinated with growing up and really discovered music and lyrics.”
From the get-go, you hear what appears to be a distraught McCracken, his voice breaking as he speaks about immortality, life and death and the possibility of five more minutes. For those unaware, The Canyon was heavily inspired and written for Bert’s own childhood friend, Tregen Lewis, who tragically took his life. The album encompasses Bert’s journey through his friend’s story and as the album winds down, the second half is full of Bert’s reflections on mortality, love, the celebration of life, finding light even in the darkest of times, regrets, overcoming struggles whether they be personal or you against the world… all these themes and more are addressed, encircling the album as if wrapping up all these aspects in life into one beautiful package complete with a red satin bow.
“…to immortality almost, we wanted to write a song, it was like if I had five minutes to hold Tregen’s hand, and if he had five minutes to hold his dad’s hand…what would it be? Like, what could we possibly say in those (what would you say?) moments? I think I caught it in the chorus. I would say, “All I want to say to you is that your love never leaves me alone, and now you’re right here. Hold my hand. Every single song I ever sing is for you.” It feels so good. This is as close as I’ll get you know? He is right here…”
As “For You” repeats that the song, album, words of comfort are “for you,” this theme is constant as one track ends and the next begins There is never a moment where the pain, the hurt, the act of dusting your knees off and persevering…the experiences of life, cannot be heard dripping from Bert’s words.
The album may not satisfy the taste of those engrossed by the ever-popular, overly-produced tracks of today’s hit music. There are fell bells and whistles to The Canyon. Though any addition would only chip away at the sincerity of the album. Anything more would be unnecessary: the raw, organic and unprocessed sound instead forcing listeners to focus more on how the songs and lyrics resonate with you rather than how cool the latest Garage Band effect sounds layered and repeated beneath some auto-tuned vocals.
This is not to say that there aren’t tracks that cannot compete with today’s hits. “Over and Over” was the first taste of The Canyon, and arguably is The Used’s best single to date. More cowbell?! Yes please! While this track may not be as heart-wrenching as some of its predecessors, the track is almost a facade in being the first many fans heard of the album. The fun, upbeat number dares you to dance along with a careless smile. There was hardly any preparation or warning to strap yourself in for the rollercoaster of emotions to come when listening to the album as a whole.
The Canyon from the very beginning has the ability to grab hold of the listener’s heartstrings, and as the album progresses, the grasp only tightens, holding on for life (and love and death). To call the album beautiful is a vast understatement. There are so many bewildering musical moments – both welcoming new tricks up The Used’s sleeves and almost familiar sounds from their earlier releases – but what absolutely sets apart The Canyon is the raw edges, there is never any absence of their passion or any mistaking the delicate and deliberate way this album was composed, successful in feeling as though you just walked in on the band’s late night, personal sessions, but with the ability to listen to it over and over again (pun intended?).
For those who grew up screaming the words to songs off In Love and Death (which was released late 2004 – over thirteen years ago), experiencing The Canyon is like experiencing the amazing chance to rekindle a beloved friendship and sharing just five more minutes to discuss how to deal with grief, death, the bleakness of life itself… all of these occurrences that The Used flirted with in earlier albums but being wide-eyed teenagers, listeners could sing along without understanding the severity of what was yet to come. The Canyon showcases a maturity, a previously unseen vulnerability, offering it as a catharsis, a means to heal, a wave to wash over you, to take it all in, even if it leaves you winded, knocks you off your feet, by surprise, so sudden it may even hurt. But the pain reminds you of your own existence, a much-needed gift sometimes in life.
Take it from the very last words closing out the album: “at least I feel…”
Tracks to pay attention to: “For You,” “Funeral Post,” “Moon-Dream.”
In addition to releasing the album, The Used have kicked off their North American tour with support from Glassjaw. The tour will be wrapping around the States until late November! Be sure to check out the links below for dates/ticket info near you.