ALBUM REVIEW: The Used - The Canyon
In describing the album, vocalist Rob (Bert) McCracken explains “it’s an expression of various sounds, a celebration of real rock and roll music. Everything in my life has lead up to this moment”.
It touches on deep and emotional personal experiences, such as the death of close childhood friend Tregen Lewis and the death of McCracken’s ex-girlfriend, Kate, who died of a drug overdose while pregnant with his child 13 years ago. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the seriousness of this album and how deeply personal it is, nothing will. But that’s the point.
McCracken hopes that in sharing his story, it will elicit some kind of emotional response from the listener. Although this album is about his own personal experiences, death and loss are a universal theme that people across the globe can relate to and have to deal with at some point in their lives.
At 17 tracks and 80 minutes in length, it’s a real listening experience. McCracken describes it as “very eclectic” and believes “each song shines on its own, but it’s a beautiful story told in its entirety, something people can really look forward to”. He explains that the first half of the record is about him finding his way through Tregan’s story, while the second half of the record is his reflections on it.
Opening track “For You” sets the theme of the album. It begins with a recording of a conversation between McCracken and the album’s producer Ross Robinson. It’s a conversation about Tregen. McCracken reflects on what he would do if he had just 5 minutes to hold Tregan’s hand. What would it be? What could possibly be said in those moments? 30 seconds in, his voice starts to crack and you can HEAR the emotion in his voice, as he chokes back tears and tries to hold himself together. As a fan, it’s difficult to listen to.
The song itself is a beautiful acoustic guitar piece which showcases McCracken’s unique and melodic vocal ability. Again, you can hear the pained emotion in his voice as he sings lyrics such as “all I want to say to you is that your love never leaves me alone / every single song I ever sing is for you”.
“Cold War Telescreen” is a heavier track (especially when preceded by opening track “For You”) and revisits a more ‘classic’ The Used sound, with a certain familiarity to it. Although McCracken can’t scream his lyrics the same way that he used to, his voice has matured and evolved into the sound that we hear throughout the album.
“Broken Windows” references McCracken’s ex-girlfriend’s death, with lyrics “you gave me some drugs (just) like the drugs that killed her” and despite the heavy subject behind the lyrics, it’s a catchy song with an upbeat sound and a killer bass line.
First single “Over and Over Again” has a definite pop-rock, upbeat feel to it. The song will draw you in, and from the opening notes, have you tapping your feet, bopping your head and wanting to get up and dance around the room. It’s a song that has a catchy beat and you’ll find it stuck in your head for days. The accompanying music video is as quirky as the song itself and sees the band members dancing around with odd creatures and strange characters alike.
Second single “Rise up Lights” is a fast-paced song with a killer bass line and some very impressive guitar work by both Jeph Howard (bass) and Justin Shekoski (guitar). It’s really quite sensational.
Other standout tracks include “Vertigo Cave” which has a sound that is reminiscent of some of the songs on “Lies for the Liars” and features heavy, chugging guitar breakdowns. This one just feels like a real rock and roll song.
“Moon-Dream” features vocals from McCracken’s daughter, Cleo Rose in the intro (giving it yet another personal touch) and the inclusion of a string quartet, which is not something that you would expect from The Used. McCracken describes working with the quartet as one of the most magical moments of his career and it gives the song a whole new dimension and a soothing lullaby sound.
“The Nexus” has standout lyrics “All my broken parts that make me whole / We are the used, but not defeated” and features heavy guitars and a choir behind McCracken’s vocals, which doesn’t sound like it works but does, and well.
I could go on, and write pages about these songs, but then you’d be sitting here reading all about them instead of actually listening to the album, and that completely defeats the purpose.
The concept of music being a force of healing and a way to work through your emotion and uncertainty is very much prevalent throughout this album. “The Canyon” is a real listening experience, just like the band intended it to be.
From everything that I’d read about the album before its release I was expecting something completely different and unrecognisable, especially after “Imaginary Enemy”, where the band strayed from their traditional sound a little. However this is unmistakably The Used. It’s not the old Used; they have grown and matured, both as individuals and as a band, but it’s definitely The Used.
And you should definitely check it out.
Reviewed by: Amber Eccles