Since the release of The Used’s first record in 2002, they have established their notorious and raw style of rock. They have empowered the stages of Warped Tour since its start and rocked the music scene with their rebellious presence. In 2013, The Used released an EP to keep their fans satisfied before their next album. The Ocean of the Sky had no major musical differences in style for the band and captured their unforgettable sound, so when their latest album Imaginary Enemy dropped this month, jaws dropped as well.
Imaginary Enemy is a much different sound than what The Used have ever created before. It seems as if the opening track fools listeners, however. “Revolution” shows the greater production and diverse sound that is brought to the table, but stays true to their original music. The raw vocals, strong tempo, and heavy rock instrumentals all tie in the exciting vibe that The Used are known for, leading to the anticipation of similar tracks from listeners. This style is unfortunately not revived often in Imaginary Enemy, but manages to create sparks in some tracks. “A Song to Stifle Imperial Progression”, for instance, has a very unique and catchy beat in the refrain, but the fast, scratchy vocals of the verses leave fans reminiscing on the older days of the band.
The strongest and newest element of this sixth album is their smooth alternative style. They soften their sound immensely on this record, focusing more thoroughly on the melodic hooks and modern elements. The achieve this with “Cry”. Tranquil guitar riffs introduce the track and upsurge into a captivating refrain. They move from this appealing chorus to an electronic bridge, and then jump to a heavy instrumental crash that brings together the old and the new. Although, these clear contrasts are overridden by the track’s soft tone and dictate the entire album as well. The title track “Imaginary Enemy” also has contradicting verses and refrains, but the fantastic hooks of the chorus prove where The Used’s intentions lie.
Unfortunately, The Used weren’t able to pull off this style to their fullest potential. Although some tracks find strength in their explorative state, others dissolve into the generality of pop-rock tracks and love ballads. “Overdose” is a complete disappointment. The overall tune is slow and too soft for this band, leaving listeners confused by where they are going with this sound. To top it all off, the lyrics are oversimplified and boring. Mundane lines like “You’re love is my drug / I’ve overdosed” can be found in any generic radio pop song. “Generation Throwaway” also finds a very typical place on the album. The idea of an outcast revolution is overused and forced, making the drawn-out notes and awkward verses even more irritating. Thankfully, the empowering theme they try to capture here is made up for in “Kenna Song”. The refrain holds more liberation with its consistent pace and tone. This impacts the power held in the vocals, which reassures listeners of The Used’s skills and talents.
The Used certainly took major risks in such a diverse record. With Imaginary Enemy being their sixth record, it is understandable that they want to alter their style to what they feel will please fans and keep them going. As much as they appeal to this softer and more mainstream style, their failures make the ride for Imaginary Enemy shaky. When a band makes a significant change to their music, it is usually a make or break decision. It’s hard to tell whether or not this decision was the right one for The Used.