I'd like to think that even my young gothic self, sitting in a candlelit room listening to The Cure, would never have been hoodwinked by the histrionic fanfare of The Used. I'll admit Robert Smith was a self-indulgent sort, but even he knew when to hold back from theatrical overkill.
Bert McCracken does not. The frontman of the Utah-based post-hardcore band drives his artificial angst home with echoing backup vocals (he might as well be using auto-tune for all its cheesiness) and a really annoying pop effect that waters down every song with any hardcore potential. All these awful elements only get worse when you listen to the lyrics, which include lots of lines about bleeding, hollowness and coming undone. It's whiny and, like reading a teenager's diary, painfully cliché.
Why is this so annoying? Because The Used sometimes plays with smart pop hooks and, every once in a while, manages something interesting. The brisk, thrashing riffs on "Blood on My Hands" kick off the album just right coupled with a strong, catchy chorus. On "Born to Quit," the horror movie bass line also sparks a sense that this band has some good songwriting skills. Alas, the drivel quashes all nuggets of promise.
The Used plays the Wilma Theatre Wednesday, April 28, at 8 PM. $26/$24.50 advance.