Last night in Boston, legendary and universally respected metal pioneers Slayer performed at The Sinclair in Harvard Square. By all accounts from my giddy, aging metal head friends, it was fucking epic. I wouldn’t know, because I skipped it. I was across town seeing metal-core screamo veterans The Used at the House of Blues. I am not sorry for that. Death to true metal. Wake me up when Slayer writes a hit this good:
Ever since their flawless self-titled debut in 2002, The Used have been sort of a paradox. They’ve sold millions of records, played huge tours, and written some of the more memorable hits of the genre, and yet it’s almost impossible to find anyone who admits to being a fan. A lot of friends scoffed at me for saying I was going. A few others said they were too old for that shit. That could be just because I’m literally too old for this shit, but it seems it’s been that way for years. You might say, and many of my friends do, that they’re just a corny band for mopey teens, but they’ve been around long enough now that that can’t logically be true. Those mopey teens have long since grown up.
But the inner mopey teen never dies, not unless you’re a try-hard Serious Adult. The lack of enthusiasm I see for The Used makes no sense to me. Even in the midst of the #emorevival, where we’re pulling every third string Jade Tree band that ever put a whiny, off-key warble to tape back into the spotlight, and contemporaries like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday continue to be cherished favorites, being a The Used fan in 2015, or 2010, or 2005 for that matter, feels like the equivalent of sleeping with a blanky at night and sucking your thumb.
You people are missing out. While the latter records, including last year’s Imaginary Enemy, aren’t as loaded front to back with hits like the debut and the 2004 follow-up In Love and Death, each record since still manages to introduce a handful of perfectly realized songs that hit the best parts of metal, punk, emo, and pop. That last part probably explains some of the disdain for the band: their songs are too catchy to be cool, too populist and pleasing and appealing. What kind of piece of shit band writes songs like that?
“We’ve played in this place probably 20 times,” singer Bert McCracken said from the stage last night. “It seems appropriate tonight after being in this band for almost 15 fucking years that we celebrate 15 years of The Used.”
A good idea indeed. And the band did just that, running through their catalog, from early favorites like “Taste of Ink”, to newer singles like “Revolution.” The latter was introduced with some earnest sermonizing from McCracken, although one gets the impression that he’s doing so with a wry sarcasm much of the time.
“We talk a lot about revolution on the new record a lot,” he said. “There comes a point in history when the common man, me and you, have had enough. I think we’ve all had enough. They still execute people in this country, but if you’re police you get suspended with pay. If you’re a banker you get a bonus. The revolution were talking about is consciousness away from separatism,” he went on. And then, as if realizing he was starting to drift into goofy territory, he half-joked (I think), about fucking the world…with our minds.
I don’t know man, that sounds dumb as hell, but stage banter is notoriously moronic across all genres.
I’d come to the show a little late, and missed Every Time I Die (who sound like all the good metal parts of The Used without any of the, you know, melody and singing) because I was caught up in a protest of police violence over in Roxbury, so seeing an almost exclusively white room of twenty somethings shouting about revolution seemed a little disorienting, but the point with music like this, with visceral, felt, and emotively delivered music isn’t exactly to think, is it? It’s to feel the power from the stage, and to filter it through your own body, and deliver it back.
Then again, you don’t necessarily want to have to listen to the dozen bodies you’re pressed up against trying to scream the high parts to “I Caught Fire.” Unfortunately, that’s a common thing at a The Used show, since McCracken lets the crowd do so much of the singing. While that’s always been kind of a bummer, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who could hit those notes night after night all these years later. Not even what’s his name from Saosin. Speaking of that other woefully critically underrated band, Saosin’s Justin Shekoski has been filling in on guitar on this tour.
For the encore, the band teased the intro to Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name”, and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, two other groundbreaking bands who got too popular for their own good to the point that it somehow ret-conned their best work into self-parody. “This is the greatest song ever written,” McCracken said as Nirvana riff segued into their own “Box Full of Sharp Objects.” I’m honestly not sure which one is actually the better song. I’m surprised more people don’t feel the same way.