The Used

Lies for the Liars

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It isn't completely fair to compare the Used to My Chemical Romance, despite their associations in the past (they covered Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" as a team) and surface similarities. The Used have deeper roots in punk (there's a reason why former drummer Branden Steineckert high-tailed it for a gig with Rancid), and they always were more purely emo than MCR. Nevertheless, the Used's third studio album, Lies for the Liars, sure brings to mind The Black Parade, particularly in how the Used pile on lurid, florid art rock trappings upon their pop-punk, borrowing vocal arrangements from Queen and imagery from The Wall (this time, it's the worms); the album also has a song called "Hospital" that recalls the deathbed escapades of Gerard Way. But where Lies for the Liars really shares similarities with The Black Parade is in how it's a big-budget escalation of the band's sound designed to leave the emo tag behind. While there's a haze of pretension hanging over some of the record -- nowhere more so than on the awful single "The Bird and the Worm," a noisy hookless cluster of staccato strings, druid vocals, and narcissistic emo romanticism -- this plays more poppy than proggy, as the Used dabble in all sorts of classic pop sounds, kicking off the album with a sleek, echoey new wave guitar and then spiking the chorus of "With Me Tonight" with blaring horns straight out of Chicago. All this flair gives Lies for the Liars some lightness if not levity, since the Used is, like all bands of their ilk, a very serious band, diligently plundering the deep uncharted avenues of the soul. Try as they may to inject some humor into their music -- the mock-shuffle on "Paralyzed," the two-step gallop of "With Me Tonight," the "liar, liar pants on fire" chorus of "Liar Liar (Burn in Hell)," which was probably meant ironically but sure doesn't play that way -- this is a relentlessly sober affair, churning with glum guitars and an eternally adolescent sincerity. It's not funny, it's not fun, but it wasn't meant to be: it was meant as a collection of tortured love songs ("Earthquake" and "Find a Way" boasting the sweetest melody and harmonies here) and teenage solidarity anthems ("Pretty Handsome Awkward," which winds up sounding like a clumsy come-on). Ironically enough, that splashy production and infusion of pop on Lies for the Liars may very well keep away the adolescents who stuck with the band throughout their first two records -- there's nothing that angsty teenagers like better than aggression, which isn't necessarily absent here, but it is tempered -- and may keep them from speaking to any listener a few years removed from college.

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