Review Summary: The Used get everything right on their debut
As with members of all professions and trades, it is rare for a band to accomplish exactly what they intend to to the best of their ability with their first attempt. Many debuts such as blink-182's first album among others fall slightly short of what they intended to achieve but hinted at what was to come in the future. This is not the case with The Used. Their debut is a whirlwind of emotion in musical form, with a mixture of heavy and soft tones that contrast to paint a canvas of absolute despair. This is a release that few will forget after hearing.
The Used did not get absolutely everything right with their self-titled first album but they came damn close in my opinion. The vocals are whiny but they are not whiny to the point of being unlistenable, and carry a lot of emotion with them. There is also a lot of screaming throughout this album such as on the opening track that adds to the sense of hopelessness. This is a release where the vocal performance pretty much carries it throughout, with the rest of the band merely contributing what they can. The vocals and lyrics are definitely the centerpiece of The Used's debut. The lyrics are very dark and depressing but this fits the mood of the album which is one of absolute self-hate and depression. If there was ever an album almost guaranteed to reduce a listener to a quivering pile of bones then it is this one.
The guitar work here is relatively simplistic but it does not matter as it really feels powerful. The riffs to songs like A Box Full Of Sharp Objects and Maybe Memories are hard hitting and create a very dark atmosphere. This is a release that is all about its atmosphere. Every song gets across the emotions the album speaks about even without the listener having to read the lyrics, which is something that not a great many albums can even begin to understand. The Used really created a hard-hitting, bludgeoning affair with their first album but it is not a particularly brutal one. Instead, this album uses its heaviest sections sparingly in favor of a more melodic nature on tracks like Bulimic. In particular however this works on the song The Taste Of Ink, which is a softer song in the aftermath of the opening song which is arguably the heaviest track here.
This is also a release where the production ensures that every instrument is audible constantly and this adds a lot to the album as a whole. The bass is always there in the background whilst the drumming keeps a solid beat for the album, occasionally being quite creative such as on the aforementioned A Box Full Of Sharp Objects. The vocals are very loud in the mix as they are clearly the focus but they are not so loud that they completely overbear the listener. It is also nice to hear such a crisp production job among such a varied album as well as it just helps to compliment the constant changes from heavy to soft and from screaming to clean singing. The production gives the album an accessible feel even where some listeners would be turned off, such as with the inclusion of the screaming, and overall makes The Used's debut feel very crisp. This is a release that is absolutely unique and one will not find anything like it and I highly recommend it as it is a masterpiece in my opinion.