“My mind is locked away, where there ain’t no escape”
The Used are back to fill our hearts with in-your-face personal anthems once again with Toxic Positivity via Big Noise. Following their hit 2020 record Heartwork, which broke the Billboard 200, their tenth studio album feels like a combination of In Love And Death with Lies For The Liars.
While it is reminiscent of their earlier work, Toxic Positivity is a more polished and mature collection showcasing the group’s personal growth. However, that doesn’t mean it’s devout of that grittier side. “Worst I’ve Ever Been” kicks off the record with a high-energy headbanging ripper, a spiritual successor to their earlier opening tracks “Maybe Memories” and “Take It Away.” While “Pinky Swear” and “Headspace” give you that rush of nostalgia, transferring your brain back in time to feel fifteen again while listening to “All That I’ve Got” in your bedroom.
Halfway through the record, “Dopamine” and “Dancing With A Brick Wall” radiate circus march instrumentation the band started to lightly incorporate on In Love and Death and then brought fully to life on “The Bird And The Worm” back in 2007. A whimsical journey met with heavy distortion sends us down a sonic path only this band can. The record closes with a complete tonal shift of pop-punk-esque melodies with “Top Of The World,” “House Of Sand,” and “Giving Up.” Ending the record with an upbeat juxtaposition to the aggressive introductory tracks.
Lyrically the record starts off with enraged pessimism claiming “No one can stop this wicked world from burning” (“Worst I’ve Ever Been”), “Me and my head are enemies” (“Numb”), and “I Hate Everybody.” Then it is bookended with hopeful reprieves of being “On top of the world (“Top Of The World”)” and “I’m not giving up” (“Giving Up”). Sending us on a complete journey of human emotions. We all have good days and bad days, it’s important to see this portrayed in a record exemplifying that things can always turn around when you don’t give up on yourself. Mental health being so prevalent in music, especially alternative music, helps us cope with our everyday hurdles knowing we’re not alone in feeling the way we do.
Seeing vocalist Bert McCracken offer his own vulnerability in his lyrical approach showcases his maturity as an artist, screaming words that give us a look into his own life—the struggles and the victories he’s overcome. McCracken succeeds in letting us feel these ups and downs as we listen and analyze how it relates to our own lives.
All in all, Toxic Positivity delivers a familiar yet fresh set of tracks. Catchy, angry, happy, sad, and every other emotion in between. The way the band constructs each song makes you feel every lyric McCracken belts out through gritted teeth even harder. The Used are truly one of a kind, with their genre-blending sounds intertwined with McCracken’s vocals shining through the orchestrated noise. Their new record only further cements that.
Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it?: Buy it. The teenage angst deep in your soul will thank you later.