The sixth long-player from the shape-shifting, stalwart, Utah-bred punk rockers opens with a song called "Revolution" that houses the lyric "From now on I pledge allegiance to a world that's so much different/where no one suffers/everyone is free." It's an uplifting image, and one that Bert McCracken and company haven't always evoked, but more than a decade into their career, the Used have carved out their own unique niche in the crowded post-hardcore/screamo punk scene, and have earned the right to reflect on what they've been raging against since their 2002 debut. Working again with longtime producer John Feldman, Imaginary Enemy burns bright and fast, tearing through familiar (as in largely generic), classic anti-establishment punk themes with the subtlety of a mace to the face, but there's a wild, anything-goes spirit (and a genuine yearning for change) that guides much of the material, suggesting that the studio may have housed a sizeable window to accommodate the tossing out of the rule book. For every "Cry," "Generation Throwaway," and "El-Oh-Vee-Ee," all three of which are fist-pumping, largely traditional-sounding 21st century punk rallying cries that effectively utilize the Used instant-chorus generator, there's an "Evolution" or a "Song to Stifle Imperial Progression (A Work in Progress)," the former a dreamy, radio-ready power ballad and the latter a freak show mash-up of feral, Sunset Strip metal and Big Audio Dynamite-induced dance beats, and it's these aberrations that make Imaginary Enemy such a surprisingly fun ride, even as it's beating you over the head with cliches.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger