What do you do when someone asks you to review the newest album from The Used? You grab your Beats and get to work. And speaking of beets, depending on what demographic you are coming from, this album can be difficult to digest. As a group that has never shied away from going dark and obfuscating directly into bubble gum and pop-punk, The Used has entered into new territory with Imaginary Enemy: literal and lightly political.
The album kicks off with the highly repetitive, stomp-rock jam about “Revolution”; it’s a little Linkin Parkish, but not a deal breaker by any means. It will certainly make for a fun opener for a tour, but it’s on “Cry” where vocalist Bert McCracken first decides to show up and wow us with a flawless chorus. All of a sudden, it’s like old times with our buddy Bert circa In Love and Hate, but he’s also been practicing a weird robot bridge that he wants to bounce off of you.
The sure-to-be divisive (friendships will end over whether or not you like this) track “El-oh-Vee-Ee” is the first on the road to many mega-literal choruses with a simple (but not really fault-able) political bent. You hate oil tycoons, war mongers and Tea Partiers, right? Good, you’ll be fine. Demographically, the album goes off the rails for some of the older generation of The Used fans; if you’re a teen or preteen starting to form your political and religious views? Perfect. It’s literal; it’s teen arena rock; it is flawless.
As we approach the track “Evolution” near the middle of the album (think they planned that?), Enemy begins a more eclectic feel, winning me back over. Funk, pop punk, southern rock; all is fair game, now, it would seem.
The album peaks during “Kenna Song,” when McCracken takes you effing church. This is the Gospel of Bert, Quinn, Jeff and Branden. The entire track comes from an extremely innocent and hopeful place, made that much cooler coming from an adult. With this peak, the rest of the album follows like the rest of a literal church service: A foreboding song before the invitation, a super uplifting chant at the end, followed by notes and words just kind of milling about until everyone goes home.