Review Summary: Optimism's an allusion, I ain’t buying inThe Used
have never been what one would call "consistent". The band will put out an absolutely wonderful track one day, and then put out an absolute slab of boring the next; the only exceptions to these for many people being the band's self-titled album and The Canyon
, an album that may have gotten the band too over their heads with the "long album" concept leading to the absolute nadir of the band's career: Heartwork
. Ranging from energetic fun to atrociously mediocre (along with an annoyingly confusing title, considering 2009's Artwork
also exists and is one of the band's best), it seems the band were at a crossroads. Fortunately, they've taken the hint, and Toxic Positivity
, for all of it's faults, is a nice step forward for the band.
Opener "Worst I've Ever Been" is a nice establisher of what the band has been about for the past few years: pissed off pop-rock music. Aside from questionable, lazy lyricism (which is a problem across all of their albums), it's an absolute beast that really sets the tone for the rest of the album. Outside of adding some electro sensibilities in songs such as lead single "Numb" and album highlight "I Hate Everybody", they don't overdo it or do it in a particularly annoying way. Acoustic ballads, namely "Cherry" and "House of Sand", are also a bit more common of a sight, but they're done quite nicely here; maybe not the best of the band's career, but they're strong tracks which do prevent a bit of monotony from setting in. "Pinky Swear" provides a lot of the correct hits that made fellow Utah rockers and known Used-worshippers Get Scared
such a kick-ass band, while closer "Giving Up" leaves an ironically non-toxic positive note to end the record on.
By far the biggest issue with Toxic Positivity
is Bert McCracken's penchant for strange lyrics; the album is littered with the most generic lines from the very beginning of the album, with "Worst I've Ever Been"'s bridge providing us with the wonderful, thoughtful, and utterly pathetic line of "Sky is falling, don’t come calling / Close your eyes, the sky is falling", while "Headspace" proudly proclaims "Broken limbs can be fixed / Put them back into place / What about feelings that / Are too f**king hard to face". Deep if you're 12, perhaps, but for crying out loud, these guys are in their 40's by now, surely they've found a more mature way to express their feelings? (*COUGHCanyon
For what it's worth though, Toxic Positivity
is a consistently nice pop-rock album that you'll find some enjoyment in...if you're into that sort of thing. It won't change any minds about the band, but people who like the band's general discography will probably find something to like here. It's not the return to form we've been waiting for, and perhaps at this point it's a bit too much to ask; but they've at least given us something satisfying
, and that's really all that matters in music.