The Used spent the majority of last year touring across America and Europe in celebration of their 15th anniversary. For a band in today’s alternative music climate having been going strong for such a long time is quite an achievement in itself, however The Used have also been delivering consistently excellent albums ever since their self-titled debut back in 2002. The band’s eighth album The Canyon sees a few changes, most noticeably that this is the first album to feature guitarist Justin Shekoski following the departure of Quinn Allman in 2015. It’s also the first with producer Ross Robinson, as the majority of the band’s work has previously been produced by John Feldman (with the exception of 2009’s Artwork produced by Matt Squire) The result’s of these new developments are spread across a whooping 17 songs in what just might be The Used’s most unique and exciting venture to date.
The Canyon starts out unexpectedly from the get-go, with ‘For You’ beginning with an emotional voice recording of vocalist Bert McCracken discussing the lyrical construction of the song with Robinson which eventually leads into a delicate acoustic ballad laced with orchestral strings. Compared to the ferocity of previous album openers including Artwork’s ’Blood on my Hands’ and Imaginary Enemy’s ’Revolution’ it’s a completely new way for the band to introduce themselves and it works wonders.
With a heap of influences and Shekoski’s guitar work providing a new dynamic The Used have managed to provide everything from their alternative hardcore roots to some epic power ballads. Robinson’s production is smooth and clean allowing every element of every song to pour through clearly highlighting the band’s intricate musicianship perfectly. The utilisation of orchestrations is another layer that adds extremely well the to the development of the sound on this album. This is particularly highlighted in ‘Moon-Dream’ as an array of strings lift up McCracken’s haunting vocals in a simple but beautiful song.
Although The Canyon moves in seveal different directions, The Used definitely don’t shy away from their heavier roots as reflected multiple times throughout the record including in the breakdown filled ‘Cold War Telescope’ and ‘Rise Up Lights’. If there’s one thing this album does, it's that it showcase the technical ability of each band member brilliantly. Shekoski’s guitar work shines in ‘Vertigo Cave’ with a combination of dreamy tones and dancey melodies while ‘Pretty Picture’ allows for a fiery solo. Jeph Howard deliver an infectiously intricate bassline in ‘Broken Windows’ and Dan Whitesides shows off some relentless drumming in ‘The Nexus’.
Overall, while including 17 songs is quite a bold move to make there’s enough variation throughout this record to keep listeners thoroughly interested. It’s a daring direction to go in but it’s something The Used have pulled off phenomenally and eight album’s into their career they’re more than still going strong.