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Review: The Used – Heartwork (Deluxe)

Wild, heart-wrenching, whimsical, aggressive… There are many words that one could use to describe Heartwork, the eighth studio album – and, dare we say it, magnum opus – from rock stalwarts The Used. 

Another one of those words is ‘enormous’, with the original pressing, minted last April, spanning a weighty 16 tracks. But adding to that a whole second album worth of previously unheard material, this 11-track expansion pack only serves to further the band’s flooring effort to relay tales of self-examination and vulnerability. 

The deluxe edition of Heartwork truly has it all, from a harsh bounce in ‘Blood Meridian’ to a meticulous narrative and cutting creativity in ‘Love Heart’, all the way through to the pensive minstrel effort that is ‘See You In Hell’. Here, The Used offer an unrestricted look at the “anything goes” frame of mind they had when they first entered the studio.

And that’s no marketing spin, as we so quickly learned: anything really does go with Heartwork (Deluxe). The band’s alt-rock tendencies are most prevalent in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ – a riveting anthem of angst supported by a tinny, yet tingling guitar melody. Demonstrating a similar dichotomy of sonic and lyrical interest is ‘River Stay’, which packs a punch while retaining a beautifully wistful sentiment – one which courses over bright, yet ambiguous textures. 

What’s great about this edition is the elemental exposition The Used take with the sonics of their craft. We hear layer upon layer of crashing drums, calculated guitar runs, and a well-refined performance from vocalist Bert McCracken – one in which he explores his vocal range in a way we’ve seen before. 

Some might argue that this new set of 11 songs won’t match the quality of the original Heartwork album, and to some degree that’s true. The new members of the story may well stand up as a release in their own right, as opposed to a bookend to the Heartwork we’ve already heard. So why The Used decided to sit on these tracks for an entire year is anybody’s guess – particularly when the perfectly executed construction of the original album is so effortlessly accentuated when combined with the experimental, but exhaustively genius cuts on this offering.

Heartwork (Deluxe) is out September 17th via Rise Records
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