Issue #105: Shallow Believer by The Used
March 19, 2018
Released On February 19, 2008
Released By Reprise Records
Shallow Believer may be an EP made entirely of B-Sides, but it is easily my favourite release by The Used. I’m not sure who had final say on the band’s track listings, but lucky for us, in 2008 this person either died or came to their senses and let the public wrap their heads around these previously unreleased songs. For an album completely comprised of songs that didn’t make the cut, Shallow Believer flows seamlessly together to showcase arguably some of the band’s most powerful singles. Whether you find yourself on a track from their self-titled debut in 2002, their 2004 follow up album, In Love And Death, or 2007’s Lies For The Liars, the band is so consistent and true to themselves that it sounds like this album could have been intentionally written within the same year. What I’m trying to get at here is that this band has always had a clear musical identity, unlike their early 2000s counterparts whose sound seemed to change as often as their hairstyles. That’s right, I’m looking at you, My Chemical Romance. But I digress…
This EP is bittersweet for me for a lot of reasons. As a self-proclaimed die-hard Used fan, I personally feel that the band had a huge creative identity shift after Shallow Believer and for me, it mirrored what I was going through personally at the time. Wee baby emo Erin was an angsty fifteen-year-old who just couldn’t seem to get comfortable in her own skin. At that age where all the small things can feel so monumentally overwhelming, I began the long and occasionally perilous journey of growing into my personality by embracing music I discovered online. I often found myself admiring and drawing strength from The Used’s music, talent, candor, and their all-inclusive, down-to-earth nature. The band always presented themselves as people who genuinely cared about their fans without trying to jump on some cringe-worthy and downright exploitive “music that will save your life” campaign.
Unsurprisingly, the band’s first four albums became very close to my heart in this period. I found myself turning to them time and time again to relax and forget about all my edgy teen dramas. As I became invested in the band members as individuals, I could see that the band’s music seemed to be a culmination of the personalities of these four dynamic and eccentric energies. This small glimpse behind the music was all it took for me to seal the deal on becoming a life-long fan, and I know for sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I wholeheartedly believe that it was the sheer openness of the band members married with the raw and unpolished feel of their music that culminated their sound in to something that felt entirely genuine and cathartic. The harnessing of these elements is in part why I imagine the band has managed to retain so much of their original fan base for so long.
For me, Shallow Believer was the last album in their career that I felt I could clearly identify the band’s distinctive sound. With their later releases (2009 to present), I can hear a huge difference in the band’s overall sound and although I generally subscribe to the “change is good” ideal, in the case of The Used, I feel like this change in-particular may have led them down a path that seemed somewhat hollow by comparison. Whether you agree or disagree with that notion, Shallow Believer is an unequivocally emotive and a comprehensive post-hardcore, alternative rock album.
When you listen to Shallow Believer, you can hear some of the most raw, dynamic, and experimental highs of the band’s career. In less than forty minutes, the band pulls you through an emotional rabbit hole of warm and fuzzy feelings to sudden and explosive highs of intense intervals overflowing with raw frustration and pain. Whether the lyrics are as beautifully put as “Call this a mask, call me strong / Call me a mess, call me wrong / Cause sick hearts do fine with wasting their time” from the track, “Sick Hearts” or as abrasive and in your face as “I gotta take this moment just to push you down / Spin you around with the foot on the back of your neck / Up on the curb with the pressure on your teeth” from “Slit Your Own Throat.” Frontman Bert McCracken delivers these lines with an undeniable conviction that unifies all the album’s subtle musical nuisances. From quips of lost conversations, to various static sound bites less than a second long, it’s obvious to listeners that these tracks were tediously crafted by the band even if they were dammed to reside on the B-Side album. I would argue that the songs on Shallow Believer are some of the strongest songs to emerge from the band’s original line up and you know what else? The cover art isn’t half bad either.
I for one will always be a die-hard Used fan, new sound or old sound, because this band is near and dear to all the fragile parts of me. Not to mention that their live shows are always phenomenal, but for those of you with heathy musical relationships, let me just say that Shallow Believer will mess you up in the conceivable best way. The question is — are you ready?
Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making
Hardcore emo gold straight from the inexplicable cutting room floor.
Ah, The Used. The sounds of my youth. Actually, that’s only partially true. I remember buying their self-titled album when I was 14, and In Love And Death became the soundtrack to a break up my senior year, but by the time they released Lies For The Liars, I had lost interest in the group. (Semi-related tangent: a lot of the pop punk/emo bands that gained prominence around 2002/2003 lost me with their third album… Lies For The Liars, Louder Now, Even If It Kills Me, The Chronicles Of Life & Death, Infinity On High, Lights Out, and Direction… all albums that just didn’t capture my attention the way that their predecessors did. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that most of these albums were released around the time I finished high school.) (More parenthetical. In case anyone wants to get nitpicky, I’m aware that Lights Out is Sugarcult’s fifth album, but sometimes I forget that fact due to the obscurity of their first two LPs.) Anyway, back to The Used! Because of my lack of interest in Lies For The Liars, I skipped Shallow Believer. Knowing that it’s primarily made up of unreleased songs from the Lies sessions, it didn’t have much appeal to me. I’ve given a curiosity listen to every album they’ve released since, and while I enjoyed Artwork and Imaginary Enemy, I still never returned to Lies or Shallow Believer. Until now. I wouldn’t say that I’m kicking myself for that decision, but I do think that, as someone who listened to “I Caught Fire” on repeat just last summer after a romantic break up (a full 11 years after the first time the song marked the exact same occasion), Shallow Believer is certainly an album that would have appealed to me when it first came out. The harmonies and piano that closes out “Dark Days” had me thinking that this was a cleaner, more radio friendly Used, but then “Slit Your Own Throat” launched its assault and, while it’s not exactly as raw as their earliest material, it’s a heavier affair than what “Dark Days” promises. Mixing clean vocals with harsh screams was all the rage in the early-to-mid 2000s, but I think there were fewer frontmen in the scene who could transition between pop punk hooks and vomit-inducing screams better than Bert McCracken. (To all my Long Island friends reading this, I’ll admit that Daryl Palumbo is better.) “Devil Beside You” could sit side-by-side the catchiest of Saves The Day songs, while “Choke Me” shows that the band could hold their own on tour with the likes of Every Time I Die or Glassjaw. And then there’s the danceable “The Back Of Your Mouth,” which is almost swing-like in execution, similar to the pop-punk/vaudevillian style of Panic! At the Disco. Even with all of the familiarity, this is way more diverse than I ever remember The Used being. Credit where credit is due: Shallow Believer may be a collection of songs leftover from the band’s first three albums, but the sequencing flows so well that it would be easy enough to mistake all ten tracks as being recorded at the same time. Okay, so seven of these songs actually were recorded at the same time, and “Choke Me” was the hidden track on The Used… but if I didn’t have internet access, it would have been more difficult for me to pick out the remaining two songs. It may be a B-Sides collection, but Shallow Believer holds up well against the rest of The Used’s studio discography.
Dustin Gates (@cmoncheermeup)
Relapsed Pop Culture Junkie
I wish that I hadn’t had the thought, “So where in The Used timeline does this album show up?” If I hadn’t had that thought, I wouldn’t have looked up their discography and discovered that this is a B-Sides and rarities compilation. The knowledge of this fact didn’t affect my enjoyment of the album. It just made me listen in a different way. Had I not known that this was a collection of songs from throughout their career, I would have thought that the inclusion of “Choke Me,” the very memorable hidden track from their self-titled debut, would place it right around the time when they were very much on my radar. Although, now that I consider the alternate timeline, I think it’s good that I knew the context of the album. In the alternate timeline, I would have concluded that The Used were great back in 2002, but that something happened and I just fell out of sync with them. The reality is that this album is amazing. It makes me want to go back and listen to all of the albums that I missed in the 16 years since I last made a The Used purchase. All of the qualities that I appreciate in this band are present and accounted for: disturbingly violent imagery, loud screaming blended with beautiful sung portions, maniacal laughter. Everything that made me love that first album that apparently never left. Shallow Believer unearthed all of these memories for me, while simultaneously being a cohesive and satisfying listening experience in its own right. Who could ask for more?
James Anderson (@unabashedjames)
Devoted Docent Of Musical Concepts
The Used is a band I’ve long been curious about. Sometime — a good bit more than a decade ago, now that I think about it; damn, I’m old — emo was having its mainstream moment and I was trying hard as hell to resist it. After all, I’d grown up similar bands in basements and 200-capacity clubs. I figured that if I didn’t already know the bands that were getting on the radio from zines and shows, they were ersatz, record-company creations not worth checking out. Fall Out Boy and New Found Glory were exempt from this because of my extensive knowledge of their roots, but I was very opposed to ever checking out quite a few of the others… especially My Chemical Romance and The Used. Then I happened to hear My Chemical Romance without knowing who I was listening to, and falling in love with their sound. I never came across The Used in the wild, though, and their flamboyant singer’s highly publicized drug problems were enough to keep me away for a while. In more recent years, between seeing Bert McCracken pull himself together and get sober, and having younger friends who like both MCR and The Used encourage me to go back and check them out, I’ve been meaning to give them another shot. Who knew I’d do so because of Off Your Radar? I figured I was the only writer in this crew nerdy enough to have a sincere obsession with mid-2000s emo. I’m just as surprised to realize that the album constituting my first exposure to The Used is a compilation pulling together outtakes from their first three albums. But if this is what they left off those albums, I definitely want to dig deeper, because Shallow Believer is an incredibly solid collection of songs with a consistent vein of angst-ridden pop genius running throughout. It shows up instantly — opener “Dark Days” goes from a quiet, acoustic intro into a tense, palm-muted verse with strong melodic hardcore influences before dropping into a chorus that absolutely soars as McCracken’s emotional vocal melodies mesh with guitarist Quinn Allman’s leads to create emo-pop nirvana. As soon as I heard this chorus, I was on board for this entire album. The hits keep coming, too — “Sick Hearts” shows up towards the end, but its incredible chorus (“Call this a mask, call me strong — call me a mess, call me wrong”) is an absolute knockout, and the pre-chorus gives the perfect lift from the Nirvana-style bubbling-under verses into the chorus’s crescendo as McCracken sings, “I’d rather shut my eyes…” The lyrics here could be condemned as vague, though the barbed observations of the verses (“Make up two words on the spot for the moment / acting like it’s what you meant to say;” “Being friends with the devil gets dangerous — sad that I don’t really have many friends”) show that McCracken and co. are capable of some relatable lines without merely falling back on generic angst. “Slit Your Own Throat” is one of the heavier songs here, and lyrically it teeters on the edge of the line between angsty emo and angsty nu-metal, but honestly I love Slipknot’s first few albums so I’m not even mad. But it’s songs like “Devil Beside You” and “Into My Web” that have really got me stoked, with their driving punk energy, emotional lyrics, and downcast melodies. This is what hooked me about My Chemical Romance, it’s what I wanted from The Used, and hey, if there’s a dose of high-school-drama-kid mawkishness interjected, I can’t really complain — the same is pretty much true of me as a person. So yeah, this album’s got me dead to rights. See y’all later, I’m off to download the albums these songs were outtakes from.
Drew Necci (@buzzorhowl)
Insightful Scholar Of The Underground
It’s hard to believe (no pun intended) that this B-side loaded EP from The Used is a 10 year old release. The continuous recession of late 2000s music into a double digit past hasn’t stopped feeling weird yet and this pick just continues that trend. The pile on of reflection facing toward the past is unsurprising however, given the fact that this release is in and of itself, a kind of visitation with the band’s own past work. Consider things like lyrics to the opening track “Dark Days” (“I need to find a way / To put this struggle behind us / Can’t spend my life in shame / Making light of these dark days”) and the band’s founding desire to break away from the societal orthodoxy that pervaded its hometown of Orem, Utah. There’s an ongoing drive exuded by The Used throughout the group’s history, that is focused on achieving personal growth and overcoming life’s dealings of adversities (2004’s In Love And Death is a prime example). Musically, the band fits right in with the early to late 2000s cohorts of Saosin, Taking Back Sunday, Thrice, and other (melodically) hardcore / emo rock groups: Screeching, emotional vocals, metallic toned guitars, hit after hit of crash cymbal downbeats, and short but largely jarring choices of words for lyrics and song titles alike (“Slit Your Own Throat,” “Choke Me“). What makes this ultimately rather glossed over piece of The Used’s discography so intriguing, is that it’s a compact way to see and hear what was (at least partially) conceptually propelling the band in the time of the first three studio albums. Furthermore, even though the musical structure isn’t anything completely unheard of, there’s enough real life influence to give the music’s emotive intent three times the impact. Additionally the EP serves as be a great jumping off point for diving into the history behind a group that clearly — to say nothing of the difficulties of the music business — didn’t have a smooth and unencumbered path laid out for them at the start of their journey. Sometimes bands choose styles based on liking the way a sound resonates with them but knowing there’s so much more substance behind The Used and its aggressive stance, makes not just this EP, but all of the band’s efforts, feel that much more substantial and worth geniune exploration.
Kira Grunenberg (@shadowmelody1)
Prolific Sonic Scribe & Unifier
For fans divided on The Used’s first three records, this release provided context, justification, & exposition.
I was in high school when The Used debuted in 2002. I knew who they were mainly because I saw Kelly Osbourne rave about them on MTV, apparently the result of a romantic relationship with Bert McCracken. In Love And Death came out just as I started college, and I remember grabbing a copy using myTunes through ASU’s network. (Holy technological throwback, Batman!) I was aware of Lies For The Liars when it was released, and maybe listened once or twice. After that, I forgot they were a thing until I got a promo copy of The Canyon in my inbox last fall. That three songs on Shallow Believer are pulled from the sessions of the band’s first two offerings by itself grabs my attention, if only through a prism of nostalgia. Those three — “Into My Web,” “Choke Me,” and “The Back Of Your Mouth” — are more or less the band I remember, and there’s a warm-blanket comfort in that. It’s the rest of the material, all taken from the Lies sessions, that gave me pause. For example, how “Dark Days” missed the cut is a definite head-scratcher. It’s got what is easily one of the band’s hookiest choruses (at least of those first three albums). I’m mystified over “Tunnel“‘s lack of inclusion, as well. There’s some seriously strong material here considering this is a B-sides collection, an occurrence that is as rare as it is noteworthy. Shallow Believer, then, has forced me to reconsider the band, which is just about the highest form of compliment I can offer.
Steve Lampiris (@stevenlampiris)
Sure, Let’s Go With That
Surrounded by mothers shushing babies, the rustle of people crumpling paper tickets as they shift against hard plastic seats, I read about empathy in listening. The DMV was unusually well-suited to implementing what I was studying as I apply for a new job, and I took time to listen to the woman behind the counter, respond positively as we walked through the not exactly standard work I needed to do. Again, on my drive home, I found myself putting that into play as I listened to Shallow Believer, a compilation of B-Sides and off-tracks from The Used. Screamo has never quite hit my ear well. While I love expressing anger through music, the tone or presentation of most screamo, alt-punk angst exasperates me a bit. Doing my first full listen, I felt that again even if I was digging the guitar and intermittent melodic vocals, but it didn’t fully hit until I ran into “Sun Comes Up.” In that rounder, more vulnerable sound, the willingness of the band to go into that range opens up the entirety of the album. Those less frenetic glimpses in other songs rang out truer in subsequent listens as I could anticipate them and understand the louder, scratchier overtones in the contrast, resulting in more of a fondness for this album than I anticipated.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
I met my best friend on September 2, 2009 at Looney Tunes Record Store in West Babylon, NY. I arrived at the store at noon looking forward to watching The Used perform at the small humble shop thinking that I was getting on line early and beating the crowd to the front row. Boy, was I wrong. Outside, I was immediately met with a small group of teens around my age who had been sitting outside the shop on line from 7AM. I was hardcore, but I wasn’t that hardcore. I loved The Used, but it never occurred to me that it would be reasonable to show up to a concert 14 hours in advance. At 16, my life was deeply impacted after this very important day. For one, I had learned that if you were small and passionate about music, you needed to wake up at the ass crack of dawn to drive to the venue in order to get a good view of the stage. Secondly, I had just met the person who would alter my life on an outrageous scale. The person who I would form bands with, laugh with until my stomach was in knots, and dream, dream, dream. Then dream harder. Her name was Erin Calvert (she also writes for this very newsletter — you may have seen her at the top of this issue). I loved her. It’s really easy to make friends with strangers when you’ve been sitting on the sidewalk with them for literally eight hours in the sun discussing the only band playing that night. Art does that. It does not know social awkwardness, nor jealously, nor faux interest. When you meet another person who loves something as animatedly as you, you already have common ground. My common ground with Erin is, and always has been, The Used. Since September 2, 2009, Erin and I have traveled across the north east attending every Used show we had the balls to drive to, adding up to over a couple dozen times (I’ve lost count). Sometimes we were in Connecticut. Other times it was New Jersey. Most of the time it was in New York. No matter where we found ourselves, we were always there as the first ones on line. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 AM. Rain, snow, shine — we seriously didn’t give a shit. We were there to see The Used. Not long before this, The Used had released Shallow Believer on February 19, 2008, a “compilation” record built on outtakes and B-Sides from the band’s previous three studio records. It was my favorite release by the band thus far in their career. Shallow Believer is indeed a compilation, but it doesn’t play like one. Not once does it feel like it was shuffled about and thrown together — there is a linear progression throughout it that reads more like a romance novel than a series of short stories. There was a period of time (which I would argue is still a part of the shtick today) when The Used touted their genre as being “gross-pop.” The band had dipped their toes into the sound during Lies For The Liars era most aggressively (see “Pretty Handsome Awkward,” “With Me Tonight,” “Paralyzed“), but their hearts were still firmly and strongly beating through the post-hardcore, sorta punk rock sound. Shallow Believer is, in my opinion, the definition of gross pop and (if I can so boldly say) the most unique and lovable thing the band has done so far. Erin thought so too as you can tell. From the very beginning we have “Dark Days” which comes in like a lamb, roughs up some wolves, and goes out like a lamb again. It is bright, shiny, and new no matter when you hear it. One thing I’ve always appreciated about The Used is their childlike play with melody, and more especially, vocalist McCracken’s play with his vocal melody. “Dark Days” juggles some of the best of what The Used has to offer with a breath of cool, fresh air. Ending with a mellow piano outro and some crooning from McCracken, it is a gift to the alternative music world. “Into My Web” is another stunner laced with impressive timing and control. Attention to detail is peak here, with the amount of sound effects and layers in both the vocals and instrumentals, and the lyrics are cryptic and Poe-like. According to iTunes, I’ve listened to this song 522 times. I dare you to try and stop me from listening to it again. “See me drop my jaw as you fly like a butterfly…” sighhh, be still, my heart. Who can forget how epic and iconic “Choke Me” is? I don’t throw the word “perfect” around much because hardly anything is, but wow. This song (from the self-titled days) is hardcore at its finest. It’s endlessly clever, hilarious, and also terrifying. Branden Steineckert is a man on a mission here on the drums and it’s so exciting to hear him play so well with all this personality. McCracken is literally throwing up at the end of it. I love this song so much. I wish I could sit here all day and discuss every song on Shallow Believer, but I can’t. I’m saving room here to talk about how much I love every single millisecond of “The Back Of Your Mouth.” The horns, the performance and theatrics, the jazzy vocal melody and outrageousness of it all; it reminds me of a rolling circus with chainsaws for wheels and a ringleader named Rob McCracken chewing on bones of unidentified animals, shouting obscenities, and leading the chaos into hellfire. His shout into the second chorus, “The back of your mouth,” gives me the chills every time. The horn and vocal interlude is astounding, executed to a degree that I rarely see in music today. When I tell people that my favorite band is The Used, I mean it in more ways than I can describe in this one post. It means community, acceptance, vulnerability, daring to dream, and breaking rules to make something beautiful. It also means friendship. It means buying giant plastic balls and filling them with candy, toys, hot chocolate and tea and giving them to each member of the band at the meet-and-greet table after every show, outside every tour bus. To many, it seemed over-the-top to give gifts to bands on the road. To Erin and I, it was the very least we could do to give back to a band that had given us everything to believe in, including ourselves. After a plethora of meet-and-greets, photo ops, laughs, shared cigarettes, and breathtaking hugs, The Used have remained our band. We’ve had the fortune of meeting them too many times to count, and that’s only the icing on the cake to the amazing experiences we’ve had related to The Used. Shallow Believer was the spark to my unending, all-encompassing fascination with The Used, and I have that album to thank for my music journalism career, my relationship with my best friend, and my vivid sonic memories. After all these years, it brings me to tears thinking about all of the good times Erin and I have had with this band. The Used is in our bones like marrow, in the back of our throats like pills, and dug into our dirty fingernails. Here, now, eternally.
Catherine Dempsey (@coffincutieee)
Emo Kid Seeking Hardcore Band
Right away, I came to one realization about this album: the versatility of The Used is anything but shallow. So often I come across groups lead by screamers. Screamers that scream to mask the fact that they can’t sing. It’s a noble effort, sure, but the gimmick wears thin quite quickly. What’s really admirable, though, is displaying the capability to effortlessly switch between styles, even on the same record. Bert McCracken is a vocal shape shifter (in addition to having maybe the single best name for a leading man in rock history). There’s the unrelenting passion and energy of “My Pesticide” and “Choke Me.” On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the gentle, even soothing “Sun Comes Up,” where we actually hear a small touch of auto-tune! Equally pleasing is “Tunnel,” an acoustic ballad, complete with some cotton candy sweet string arrangements. But I think my favorite records on the album are where The Used employ both styles in the same song. “Devil Beside You” is the first indication of “oh, this cat can really sing!” Without a doubt my favorite track is the uber-aggressive “The Back Of Your Mouth,” which gives me everything I want from my favorite M.O.P. records — neck snapping rhythms and anthemic horns (the trombone solo here is sick). It’s like a ska record that people get robbed to. I’m a believer.
Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator
Due to its nature, The Used’s B-Side collection provides a detailed map of their methodical genre hopping.
Duality — it’s a hell of a drug, to borrow a phrase. There’s something about the use of “you” in songs that fascinates me. In some ways, the use of the second or third person is like a fork in the road, songwriting-wise. When distinguishing the self from the other, are you going to address your subject directly or indirectly? The Used do both on their Shallow Believer collection, but they deploy “you” with especially powerful results. I mean, does it get much more potent than telling someone to “Go slit your own throat?” In truth, those are tough lyrics for me to stomach — even when accounting for the possibility that the second person is actually self-directed. (I’m clearly turning into my mother, who has despised Beck’s “Loser” since the first time she heard the chorus — irony be damned. But that’s a whole other conversation.) I can’t resist “Slit Your Own Throat,” though, because of another form of duality it illustrates: public versus private voice. The difference between the swaying, melodic lines that comprise the setup in the chorus and the punchy, hard-to-stomach titular lyrics that follow remind me of the contrast between the face you put on when you’re trying to be your best, most universally-acceptable self and the inner monologue that voices thoughts that ring loudly internally but are necessarily suppressed. And the rhythmic accompaniment changes perfectly, from fluidity to jagged hits that serve as severe punctuation for the equally severe sentiments expressed by the lyrics. Can a track simultaneously be the one you most look forward to and the one you’re most compelled to skip? How’s that for duality?
Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds
I’m not going to front: I don’t like emo. Never did, never will. But, in the spirit of Off Your Radar, I gave this album by The Used a couple of listens with as open a mind as possible and actually found a couple of things to love. So if you’re like me and can’t stand the slick pop-punk sound and whiny vocals that define the genre, follow my advice and start by skipping down to track eight, “Sun Comes Up.” Opening with an interesting combo of strummed acoustic guitar and floor tom, a nice bass run leads into the song proper, with bells intertwining with fingerpicked guitar, decent lyrics, well-arranged backing vocals, a smart synth part and even a touch of well-deployed autotune. Just a good pop song and one that doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard to attract the attention of music supervisors for shows on The CW. I also dig “The Back Of Your Mouth,” which comes as close to chaos as one of these bands would allow. A frantic riff, unhinged vocals, some horn section madness — there’s even a trombone solo on the breakdown — pure excitement! The ending is especially crazy as they bring the song in for a rough landing. I can imagine absolute devastation in a small club if they played this one live. The album closes with “Tunnel,” a very pretty acoustic ballad with strings that is surprisingly moving. I was also surprised to discover that Shallow Believer is a compilation of tracks recorded over a five-year period (2002-2007). So it may be that I just like the later stuff better!
Jeremy Shatan (@anearful)
Prescient & Appreciative Musical Omnivore
I had heard of The Used before I listened to this album, but I’ll admit that because of the genre they fell under, or I should say, the genre I assumed they were (that being more metal-leaning, thrashing rock that I don’t normally listen to) I never really gave them a chance. This album truly surprised me and made me respect the band that much more because they certainly show their range. From very fast paced rock to slower ballads, there is a strong variety of diverse songs on this record. And I am willing to bet that there is definitely at least one song that even a hesitant listener like me will play on repeat. For me, that song is the closing track — “Tunnel.” To have a song like that, so moving and beautiful, close out the album, really rounded out the album and capped it off on such a high for me. I have been extremely into finding those perfect songs to drive around to in the middle of the night, and this song has become a perfect entry for me. If you should never judge a book by its cover, then you should never judge an artist by their genre, otherwise I would never have come across a song I didn’t even know I needed in my listening rotation.
Chelsea Kostrey (@chelseakostrey)
Retrophile & Festival Enthusiast
I’ve spent a lot of time collecting B-Sides and rarities from my favorite bands, whether it was spending hours on Limewire back in ’04 or trying to navigate through mostly obsolete RapidGator listings in the present. Because of this, I can imagine just how pumped fans of The Used were when this album was announced. What I did not imagine is that this record would paint a better picture of the band’s talent and appeal than anything that had done before or since. Really, it shouldn’t be that surprising though. Lots of the B-Sides I’ve collected over the years would do the same if compiled into a singular, coherent record. The Clash would be viewed much more pop punk than experimental (“1-2 Crush On You“) and the notion that all Chili Peppers songs sound alike would fall apart (“Gong Li“). I’ve always known The Used was more than just a screaming band with an emo aesthetic and hardcore blueprint. Once I got over the horrid cover, I found myself enjoying Artwork back in the day, specifically the songs “Empty With You” and “Kissing You Goodbye” which are two songs that should instantly challenge the perception of their sound. Except for one big song towards the end of the record, I don’t now that Shallow Believer does quite that — though maybe it will for people who haven’t heard much. What Shallow Believer does is connect a loose thread through all of The Used’s sonic adventuring, leaving bread crumbs here and there that make tender ballads (“Tunnel“) sound right at home next to gory imagery (“Slit Your Own Throat“). And what of that one big song? Well, I don’t know if enough can be written about the madcap wonder that is “The Back Of Your Mouth.” I honestly have no idea what’s going on in the record, how it came about, why it got cut, and when the band will revisit this hardcore, mad scientist proclivity. It provides you late album reassurance that The Used has more to offer than even their most fervent fans know… and that is something always worth checking out, even if they idea of a emo/hardcore band utilizing a trombone makes you shudder.
Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart
Bola Sete At The Monterey Jazz Festival by Bola Sete
Chosen By Davy Jones