Disappointing. When “Bird and the Worm,” the lead single from the Used’s third album, first emerged, it seemed to portend a radical departure. Instead of whining and screaming, there were pizzicato and violin melodies. Though the song’s central conceit still smacked of sadboy emo, it felt like frontman Bert McCracken himself was the worm, crawling out from under the Fall Out Boy goliath. Unfortunately, it’s instead an outlier on an album of the same-old, same-old. “Earthquake” promotes vague confessionals while McCracken sings, “I’m not fine,” shades of My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” hovering in the background. “Liar Liar (Burn in Hell)” actually repossesses the old nursery rhyme—you ain’t heard nothing till you’ve heard a chorus of “Liar, liar, pants on fire/Liar, liar, you fucking liar.” “Pretty Handsome Awkward” even evokes Papa Roach (there’s a name you haven’t heard in a while), suggesting that emo is far closer to nü-metal than previously surmised.
When they get to soft, almost tender album-closer “Smother Me,” it feels like this could have been a different album, one with less screaming and more violin-aided paeans to love. Instead, it’s a hyperventilating mess. Time to wash that bubblegum out of your hair, kids.