Fifteen years after their critically acclaimed debut self-titled album (produced by the legendary punk producer John Feldmann), The Used present us with The Canyon. Headed into the studio earlier this year, The Canyon was released as their seventh studio album, this is The Used’s first release without guitarist, Quinn Allman, paving the way for new guitarist, Justin Shekoski, who also played on their 2016 live album Live & Acoustic at the Palace.
As with many alternative rock bands of the 2000’s, it’s at times difficult to pinpoint a genre The Used can be categorised into outside of their alternative rock scene, crossing over between emo, hardcore, rock, punk and pop. The Used have delivered many epic angst anthems, ‘The Taste of Ink’, ‘Buried Myself Alive’, ‘All That I’ve Got’, ‘The Bird and the Worm’, all being favourites amongst the emo set. Not to forget the 2005 collaborate with My Chemical Romance of the Queen and David Bowie anthem “Under Pressure”.
The Canyon moves out of the confines of what traditional expectations are of record from a band with the success and background of The Used.
Firstly, Bert McCracken, thank you for sharing. There’s no denying this album is intimate, raw and personal, that’s inescapable. Recorded at the historic, Valentine Studios, and produced by the legendary Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn, The Cure, At the Drive-In), The Canyon is stripped bare, recorded entirely on tape. With an epic offering of 17 tracks, over a 79 minute time frame, with 5 tracks hitting over the 5 minute mark, the tone is set for what to expect from this listening experience.
The tracks differ from each song, some acoustic and soft, through to thrashy rock ballads and pop singalongs. Raw emotions, trials, adventures and politics are all explored throughout the journey of The Canyon.
Opening track ‘For You’ is a heart-felt tribute to Bert’s long-time friend, who sadly recently passed. Through conversation, exploring what would he say to his friend if he had “5 minutes to hold Tregen’s hand…what could we possibly say in those moments…all I want to say to you is your love never leaves me alone” before he sobs and calmly pours out his heart in poetry and song. This is certainly as honest and raw as an artist gets.
The indie, distant, echoing vocals of ‘Vertigo Cave’ are punchy and has the angst of The Used we have come to expect. Personal favourites are ‘Upper Falls’ with its intro of dreamy sweetness and pop sensibilities and positive tone despite its darkness reflecting upon love and loss, and “Over and Over Again” which is so catchy it sticks in your head for days, and Bert’s strained vocals are perfectly aligned to its popiness.
The variation continues with ‘The Quiet War’, insert with a little rap, delivering political messaging, and “Moon Dream” which begins with child’s voice, followed by violins and Bert’s gentle vocals whispering “there there there”. The dirty fuzz intro and typical The Used sound, ‘The Nexus’, has quiet a theatrical feel and guitar solo, and a creepy laugh slotted in to tie it all off. There is a thoughtfulness and prettiness about the sound of “The Mouth Of The Canyon”, escalating into a rock song then ending in something I can only describe as reminiscent of a Rocky Horror Show finale.‘
To be fully appreciated, The Canyon needs to be listened to in solitude. Not on the train commute to work, or your walk to the coffee shop for lunch. You must be present. Smell the air, touch the grass, feel the breeze on your eyelashes. It sends the listener into a space of mindfulness.
On first listen, The Canyon can be confusing and is a challenging, and somewhat difficult listen. But moving past this and casting aside expectations, it is a comforting, peaceful and thought-provoking record. My best advice is to not attempt to make sense of the album. Just listen. And take from it what you will.
By the end of the 79 minutes, there is a feeling of being cleansed, feeling lighter. Suddenly those things that were on your mind earlier, have been lifted as you come to the realisation of what is actually important to you and the clarity of gratefulness for what you have right at this moment.
This is an album to be consumed in the right state of mind, in the right surroundings. For you. The Canyon is a psychadelic rock, indie, alternative rock pop escape. And I like it.