Originating in Utah over two decades ago, there is none other than The Used. One of the biggest bands to emerge from the popular Emo/Screamo/Post-Hardcore movement of the early 2000’s, they rose to fame relatively quickly with their self-titled 2002 debut album. Sustaining their own share of heartache, from here the band harnessed it into further success on 2004’s In Love and Death, before the also impressive 2007 album Lies for the Liars. Taking over the scene with a sound different, and quite unmatched, it has no doubt been an interesting ride for The Used, but here we are in 2023 with new music from them.
Still featuring Bert McKracken on vocals and penning the powerful lyrics, alongside him are the skillful Jeph Howard on bass, Dan Whitesides on drums, and the band’s latest addition, Joey Bradford on guitar. Together they say true to what The Used always done… and that is to keep listeners wondering what is next.
An aspect of this band that has personified them from album after album, this ‘keep them guessing’ style continues with 2023’s Toxic Positivity. Released on May 19th through Big Noise Records, the new album comes 3 years after 2020’s Heartwork, and continues to rev up your emotions. Interestingly enough, the album features 11 songs that were reportedly recorded in 11 days and it was produced by Goldfinger’s John Feldmann; the CEO of Big Noise Records, a friend of The Used, and someone who also worked on Heartwork with them.
These factors all considered, Toxic Positivity comes with much to dig into… especially if you love what The Used has to offer. As an example, you have tracks like “Pinky Swear” that brings an electrifying Hardcore-vibed sound, but also ‘Headspace” where McKracken gently brings you into the thoughts of the mind, serenades you with his sweet voice, but all with a hint of angst.
Other highlights within the album would also have to include “Dopamine,” which features a creepy, yet catchy beat that carries the song perfectly along with vocals that combine effortlessly. Beyond this, “Giving up” is another winner with its faster pace and yet even more electronic sound.
Overall, Toxic Positivity offers plenty of angst as you dare to explore your own mind and psyche. In enough words, it is about working through your own memories and thoughts. It also reminds you of what it can feel like to be in a certain headspace and feel hopeless, but at the same time, feel positive that you can get through it. Furthermore, each song on Toxic Positivity amply displays a variety of different styles that range from Grunge to Hardcore, as well as Electronic. Painting a picture through music of the highs and lows of your mind, all while showering you with plenty of versatility, Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.