After the unique EP the band put out while on tour last year (and the culmination album of Vulnerable the year before that), it was anyone’s guess as to where The Used were going to go with their next studio release. Musically, Imaginary Enemy is basically a softer sequel to Vulnerable, mixing great elements from each of the band’s previous releases. Lyrically, however, The Used have gone on a new trek. On this outing, The Used have gone with a political theme. Lines like “We were taught progression meant accumulating more” and “isn’t it obvious we’re adding up the score?” (of “Revolution”), “You got your minions protecting privilege” and “You got your black gold, you got your pipelines…” (of “El-Oh-Vee-Ee”), “By declaring war on terror, you declare war on yourself” and “The war on drugs and poverty are only tools of gaining wealth” (of “A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression”), and “Whose gonna fight all your wars when the people won’t show” and “What will you do to us when we won’t do what you say?” are just some of the prominent words sung during the record. It’s certainly an interesting side to the band, and allows for The Used to tackle territory previously left in the dark.
Imaginary Enemy opens strong and features some of its best tracks in its first half. The first song, “Revolution,” packs a punch and gets things rolling with ease; “Cry” is fueled by a surprisingly catchy chorus and a simple, but powerful, breakdown two minutes in; and “A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression (A Work In Progress)” is chaotic and thoroughly addictive. From this point forth, Imaginary Enemy slows down quite a bit. Of all The Used albums, this one certainly lacks the most energy (which is surprising, considering the subject matter surrounding it). A good chunk of the remaining tracks are built on sweet melodies and steady rhythms. This isn’t to say the songs become boring, but longtime fans will likely complain that their Used music is best when its angry and direct. While songs like “Generation Throwaway” and “Kenna Song” are passionate, they’re also too gentle and caressing in style (except for “Evolution,” which surprises with a real vengeance during its second half).
Toward the end of the album, there are also several worthy highlights to point out. The previously mentioned “Kenna Song” eventually feels like a lost B-side of In Love and Death; “Force Without Violence” has an eerie atmosphere that works perfectly, and ends with a spoken word section on the level of that found during the start of fan favorite, “I’m A Fake;” and “Overdose” features some interesting electrical work, and closes the album in a unique fashion. (P.S. There’s also a “Secret Track” that is entertaining enough for a deeply programmed “instrumental” of sorts.)
Imaginary Enemy is slightly flawed, but still a great addition to The Used catalog. We could have done without the beat-box-like keyboards used in the songs “Imaginary Enemy” and “Kenna Song,” and it would have been great to pump some more aggressive energy into the life of this album (take “A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression” for example), but Imaginary Enemy is still full of memorable sections worth playing again and again. It wasn’t quite what was expected (after the release of The Ocean of the Sky EP), but it still holds its own in the competition of previous Used releases. It may not be up on the level of the band’s first two records, but it probably falls neck and neck with the current spot 4, held by Vulnerable. (Nathaniel Lay)
Purchase Imaginary Enemy here: http://theused.net/preorder/