Sound — 7
The Used formed in 2001, and received a lot of their initial recognition when vocalist, Bert McCracken, dated Ozzy's daughter, Kelly Osbourne, in 2003. Their sound has been described by a long list of sub-genres, but they are basically just a straight forward rock/punk rock band that flirts with multiple genres, from metal to pop. "Imaginary Enemy" is the band's sixth full-length studio album, and the first album to be released under the band's own GAS Union label, though they've released their previous album on another independent label they created. The album contains 11 tracks and clocks in at around 54 minutes. The last track, "Overdose," contains a secret track, with 7 minutes of the track being silence between "Overdose" and the secret track. The track "Cry" was released as the first single from the album in early February.
The album opens with the track "Revolution," which has part of a speech or monologue playing for the first few seconds, then moves into the actual song, with a weird little breakdown in the middle of the track. The track tries to do a lot of things from beginning to end. Next is the single, "Cry," which is a little too heavy on the auto-tune for me. Next is "El-Oh-Vee-Ee", which I guess is supposed to be a cute song title but honestly it feels really contrived. "A Song to Stifle Imperial Progress (A Work in Progress)" is one of the heavier tracks on the album and it actually has a nice groove but I'm not sure how the lyrics will go over with everybody, as the chorus of "We're saying no way, no way U.S.A." might hit a few people the wrong way. "Generation Throwaway" has some kind of clapping and stomping percussion going on to do that big epic ballad thing - the song basically built around the message that "we're not generation throwaway." "Make Believe" is basically a straight forward pop punk track, but a pretty decent song for that style. "Evolution" is a "tender" sounding song that actually was kind of boring except for a weird little part in the middle, kind of like a breakdown. The title track, "Imaginary Enemy" has a fairly interesting bass line but from there this one kind of fades into the background. "Kenna Song" is another song where they're trying to pull off some kind of slow ballad that builds up over the track, but I don't feel like they pulled it off successfully. "Force Without Violence" sounds like it is going to get heavy any second but then never actually does. "Overdose" is the last track, which fades in very slowly and is basically a song about comparing love to overdosing on drugs. There is a hidden track after about 7 minutes of silence (and some random percussion sounds) after "Overdose" ends. The hidden track is basically one of those programs that read the notepad telling a story, and later some instrumentation comes in for the latter part of it. The actual words seem to be mostly free association. At the end of the day a band that was initially applauded for their raw sound and very little production sounds on their sixth release like they were over-produced very poorly. Again, the album isn't horrible, but it does kind of fade into the background noise rather easily.
Lyrics — 7
Bert McCracken provides vocals on the album, but the difference on this album is he recorded his lyrics/vocals FIRST, then the band wrote music around them. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I can get that maybe he wrote the vocals and maybe even recorded a rough demo to work from… but he recorded the actual vocals used on the album, then the band wrote music to support them. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The actual vocal performance on the album is okay, but personally I feel like Bert McCracken's vocals have a tendency to sound generic. They aren't bad, they're pretty good, but they're not distinctive and they're not exceptional. Quin and Jeph provide backing vocals on the album, which are sufficient. The lyrics from the album are pretty much standard modern rock/punk rock fare, with nothing exceptional. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the single "Cry": "You'll never know what it feels like til you're there/ when love changes, faces appear from nowhere/ where beautiful, lovely is ugly or alone/ you need me back bad, just can't be on your own/ love is not a battle, it's a ticking time bomb/ I'm gonna let you bleed for a little bit/ I'm gonna make you beg just for making me cry/ I'm gonna make you wish you never said goodbye." I'll let those lyrics speak for themselves.
Overall Impression — 6
I can't even say I was underwhelmed, as that would signify a stronger reaction to this album than I feel. The music isn't bad - but it isn't blowing me away in any kind of way. I initially sat down to review this album and listened to it a few times, started writing and scrapped what I was working on. I finally revisited the album and tried again - the album isn't bad, but it isn't good. It is ultimately a forgettable album. I don't really have any favorite songs, but I do have a least favorite - the closing track "Overdose," with the track "El-Oh-Vee-Ee" being a very close second-worst track. Honestly, several of the tracks seem like parts were put together just blatantly cut and paste. That is what really makes it difficult to give this album a higher rating. I'm a hater of The Used, in general, as I liked most of their previous releases well enough - but this album just isn't doing it for me.