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       IN LOVE AND DEATH
       
Reprise Records
        The Used’s sophomore release was one of the most heavily anticipated albums of the year, but no one was more enthusiastic than guitarist Quinn Allman. In a pre-release interview, he stated, “I’m really starting to fall in love with this record. It almost sounds like I’m connected to it from a long, long time ago, before I was even born.”
         Such a statement prompted me to conjecture what the new material would sound like. To me, The Used was pop punk with a defining punch, especially from Bert’s vocals, and musical intensity, both technical and emotional. I expected a further maturation on this sound, like a contingent progression from the songs of the first album.

I was halfway right.

         Explanation time: let’s start from the top. The first track and first single, “Take It Away,” opens with the signature powerful sound of the Used; heavy on the beats, guitars and drums sounding like brawny without sacrificing clarity. I believe the secret to this powerful yet hardly distorted sound is Quinn’s Marshall amps. Even though he switched from using Gibson SGs and Schecters to the conventionally less powerful Fender Telecaster, he lost none of his previous guitar punch, and in fact, added more depth and tone to bolster it.
         The rest of the album plays smoothly yet diversely, from catchy yet heartfelt songs like “Let it Bleed” to super-pop Justin Timberlake-without-the-ego jingles like “All I’ve Got” to heavy, slow fist-raisers like “Light with a Sharpened Edge.”
         Besides Quinn’s new beard, differences are definitely apparent between the first and second album. Bert’s melodies and lyrical content are marginally less desolate and more hopeful than before. The prime example is “I Caught Fire (in your eyes),” a straightforward, devoted love song. Most of us would like to imagine Bert wasn’t writing that song to Kelly Osbourne. Word on the streets is that he has a new girlfriend and a good relationship, so naturally the new songs have a brighter perspective.
         Although none of the original energy was lost on this record, I felt like it treaded too close to the Simple Plan-type pop at one or two songs. Some parts also feel a bit overproduced, such as the superfluous use of techno-ish breakdowns and pitch correction. Sometimes it seems to rob the songs of their personality.
        
In Love and Death is an album that successfully straddles two worlds: the power of The Used’s first album and radio-friendly, pop-embraced singles. Although I felt much more emotionally attached to their first album, In Love and Death is worthy of the namesake of the band that created it.
...
C.L. '04
1) Take It Away
2) I Caught Fire (In Your Eyes)
3) Let It Bleed
4) All That I've Got
5) Cut Up Angels
6) Listening
7) Yesterdays Feelings
8) Light With A Sharpened Edge
9) Sound Effects and Overdramatics
10) It's Hard To Say
11) Lunacy Fringe
12) I'm A Fake
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