Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Used - Artwork Review

Media buzz has labeled Artwork as one of the best albums you'll hear in '09, and it's certainly living up to its hype as The Used have delivered what many are calling the definitive record of their career. So here's the skinny.

Artwork stands in typical Used fashion. It's rough around the edges, it's got feedback pouring in from all sides and a lyrical base that poetically dances with the ideas of life, love, God and death. 

Entering into the studio, the band hoped to create something completely different. As the bonus DVD will show you, each member felt this record needed to be a re-birth of themselves musically. They wanted something harder and darker, and from their one-on-one testimonials it seems as though they feel they've created that.

Though with a quick listen of Artwork it becomes apparent that what The Used have created is not necessarily something new, but rather just a finely tuned version of their earlier works. Vocalist Bert McCracken has found a seemingly perfect balance of screaming and melody in his singing. The catchy guitar hooks and driving bass lines give Artwork a smooth feel throughout, and the drumming lends a more punk-rock feel, rather than that distinct metal sound usually associated with the "harder" record. 

We are graced, however, with a slower song or two on this album. Kissing You Goodbye stands as the Blue and Yellow of Artwork. A lone piano with a slight feedback in the background provides the calm to this storm. Though this song comes a little too soon in the line-up, leaving us with another seven brutal songs to get through.

In that whirlwind of distortion The Used have given us a loosely based story on the death of actor Heath Ledger in Meant To Die. The lyrics read: So maybe I took a little too much/Maybe life didn't want this part of me/If it helps to know/I never let you go/I'm sorry that I lost my mind.

Sifting through this record is a pleasure for any fan of The Used. Yes, it's punishing. But in the same it's melodic and catchy, much like any other Used record. Be sure to check this one out. You won't be disappointed.

Songs to download: Empty Without You, Sold My Soul, Come Undone

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blink-182 Concert Reviews - Boston/Hartford

If you've ever seen a band perform twice on the same tour you know what you're getting is usually an act. The same set list, the recycled stage banter in between songs and probably the same opening acts. But if you were lucky enough to make it to both blink-182 concerts in the Northeast this summer (Boston & Hartford) you know that you saw two entirely different shows.

The Boston show, back in early August, was as pop-punk as pop-punk gets. Emo stars Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy opened to a young crowd hungry for the flavor of the week. Though virtually unnoticed, even the boys from Motion City Soundtrack could be seen perusing the venue before and during the show. In a classic fashion, blink owned the stage with their 22 song set. 

They hit everything from Josie to Stockholm Syndrome and everything in between. The deafening crowd of 20,000 erupted, drowning out the band during such hits as All The Small Things and What's My Age Again?. Guitarist Tom Delonge was in usual form making fun of his band mates and pledging his love to young boys while bassist Mark Hoppus had a steady line-up of jokes about Boston to deliver.

It was the perfect setting to see blink again. They were dead on with their music. Their comedic performance was stellar, even taking the time to pose for a spirited picture together for the crowd. 

Hartford, however, had a much different feel. If the Boston show was Enema Of The State, then Hartford had to be the Self-Titled record. It was much darker and more refined, yet still fun. This had to be due in part to the tragic loss of the band's close friend, Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein, the night before the show.

Though speculations that drummer Travis Barker was not going to play on Saturday flew across the venue, he showed up with the rest of the band to yet another sold-out crowd. After the first few songs Hoppus took the time to vent about the loss. Fighting back tears, he led the amphitheater in a moment of silent in remembrance of Goldstein. 

Later on in the set, Delonge spoke from the heart. He explained that the reason everyone was there that night was to use music as an escape, much as he and blink had done when they started the band some 15 years ago, and rounded that out by saying the Hartford show was going to be their escape from their sudden grief. Being up close, you could truly see the admiration in Hoppus' eyes. A great show of friendship and emotion for a group of friends picking up the pieces.

The show itself had a more grown-up feeling. Veteran opening acts Taking Back Sunday and Weezer added to the mix, and blink cut their set list down by four songs. The crowd even seemed older, as if most had been fans of blink since their inception. 

The show was still a delight though, one of the best I've personally ever seen. They've been canceling some upcoming dates on tour because of AM's untimely death, so just be thankful our dates didn't get canned. Here are the set lists from both shows. Songs marked with a * denote songs not played in Hartford. All pictures and video courtesy of Backstage Press.
  1. Dumpweed
  2. Feelin' This
  3. The Rock Show
  4. Easy Target *
  5. What's My Age Again?
  6. Obvious *
  7. I Miss You
  8. Stay Together For The Kids
  9. Down
  10. Always
  11. Stockholm Syndrome
  12. First Date
  13. Man Overboard
  14. Going Away To College *
  15. Not Now
  16. Adam's Song *
  17. All The Small Things
  18. Reckless Abandon
  19. Josie
  20. Anthem Pt. II
  1. DRUM SOLO *
  2. Carousel
  3. Dammit
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