Editors’ Notes For post-hardcore legends The Used, nearly two decades into their career, growing older doesn’t mean growing apathetic—it means developing a new, pragmatic language for aggression. The Utah band’s eighth full-length LP, Heartwork, has them reconnected with pop-punk producer and paragon John “Feldy” Feldmann (5 Seconds of Summer, Good Charlotte) for a self-referential album that pays homage to their previous work (“Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton,” “Darkness Bleeds, FOTF”) while traversing new musical styles (pop-electronica on “Clean Cut Heals,” grunge on “The Lighthouse,” and an unexpected Michael Jackson influence on “Cathedral Bell”). Contained throughout are hearty literary references meant to transform complicated symbology into accessible therapy. “A good story is a pathway to understanding,” frontman Bert McCracken tells Apple Music. “As an adult, my fulfillment lies in being able to force-feed my love of books into our music.” Here, McCracken breaks down each song on Heartwork. “After 20 years, we’re comfortable with our musicianship,” he says. “And now we’re just having the time of our lives.”

Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton
“Milton’s poem opened up my mind to the possibility of metaphors that are deep and soaked in with meaning, and I loved the idea of talking about a failed revolution. But the song is really about the struggles within the personality of who you think you are and who you know you are—those demons we fight. It’s along the same lines as some Used classics, like ‘The Bird and the Worm.’ There’s a hidden backstory of The Used that's in the entirety of this record.”

Blow Me (feat. Jason Aalon Butler)
“I’ve known Jason [letlive., FEVER 333] for maybe 18 years. He’s a hero of the heavy music scene. This song is almost a sister song to ‘Box Full of Sharp Objects’ and many others in our catalog that are about what happens after you get punched in the face, what happens after you fall down.”

BIG, WANNA BE
“If you listen deep, you’ll hear a lot of lines in the song that could come straight out of an orange president's mouth. It’s about the flex of influence and the devastating situation of social media, but it’s also sardonic, almost like Jonathan Swift. He wrote a proposition for the king about a way to cure poverty, and his idea was to eat all the poor people. It’s this really sharp, double-edged sword.”

Bloody Nose
“The record is full of different production, different feelings, and different textures. ‘Bloody Nose’ is like standing in a small club and hearing the band play directly out of the speakers. There are no tricks. It is, as well, a song about where we go when we fail and what we do with our mistakes.”

Wow, I Hate This Song
“My relationship with music is a tumultuous one. This started out as an idea to write a song about how I hate every song, but it took on a really sentimental second meaning. When you spend time with music during a difficult period, those records become solidified with a painful memory. There are records in my life that I can’t listen to nowadays without going back to that time, and it’s painful. Music is so powerful like that.”

My Cocoon
“It’s too early for an intermission, but this forces you to take a breath on the record. One record that I always go back to and love so much is The Beatles' White Album. It has so many different little interludes and little snippets of songs that just create for such a fun listening experience, but also heighten the emotion to this other level.”

Cathedral Bell
“This song echoes my childhood completely, feeling terrified about bedtime because I've never been able to sleep. It’s so much worse when you're a kid; the nighttime's so daunting. Not only that, but the musical inspiration as well, this feels like everything that was in my Discman when I was 10 or 11 and 12. It’s Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, all delicious '80s pop that is still some of the best pop that's ever existed.”

1984 (infinite jest)
“Those two books [1984 and Infinite Jest] were there for me in a time of my life when I needed art as a compass, a savior. I read Infinite Jest when I was in rehab. There's not another piece of art in the world that sums up addiction and depression the way that David Foster Wallace does. This started out as a song about the human experience, where our phones are handcuffed to our wrists like George Orwell’s telescreen hanging from every wall in 1984. The telescreen’s a villain, and in Infinite Jest, the telescreen is a drug. This song starts with anger, my frustrations toward social media and marketing and art in general.”

Gravity’s Rainbow
“Thomas Pynchon's book is so dangerous. In 'Gravity’s Rainbow,' the fire we're talking about is modern society, the billionaires who run things. It's not for me to warn everybody about the evils of social media, because the information's all out there, everybody knows—it's about how much longer will we allow them to literally take everything from us before it's too late.”

Clean Cut Heals
“There were a lot of moments on this record where having fun in the studio would lead to ‘Maybe that's not funny, maybe that's really cool?’ On this song in particular, [bassist] Jeph [Howard] had never played slap bass, and we were like, 'Why don’t you try to play slap bass?' His first take is what you hear on the record. When we were jamming this song out, it felt so different and far removed from the entire record. This is a far-reaching moment for The Used, as far as dancy electronic pop sounds go. And this song is about me leaving the Mormon church.”

Heartwork
“This poem was written after a really bad night in a really messy period of my life, but the song sums up the record’s positivity. It’s easier to write about a devastating moment when you are in a clear headspace. When you write about darkness when you’re in a bright place, you get a different color. That’s not something you’d normally get from The Used. I don’t think we’ve been in this good of a place for the entire 20 years of our career.”

The Lighthouse (feat. Mark Hoppus)
“John Feldmann has been working with blink-182 for the past five years or something, so those guys were in and out of his studio all day long, and he's like, 'Do you want to work with the Blink guys?' We're like, '100% hell yes.' Mark is a quick writer, he's a lyrical genius, and this song really felt like a different experience for The Used—there’s a lot of nostalgia for ’90s grunge.”

Obvious Blasé (feat. Travis Barker)
“People know that it's Travis Barker [drumming on this song] right away—how cool is that? There are only a few artists who, when you hear them do their thing, you know it's them right away, so it puts him in this other world of musicians. This song hearkens back to where The Used actually came from; it's this Warped Tour punk-rock sound with a big, huge, catchy chorus.”

The Lottery (feat. Caleb Shomo)
“We reached out to Bryan from Knocked Loose and he was working on the song, but problems with scheduling made everything fall through. So, very, very last minute, we needed someone quick, driven, and smart, because we wanted to make ‘The Lottery’ a co-write. Caleb from Beartooth sent back lyrics in 12 hours. He recorded the track right before he went onstage in New York City and sent it to us as soon as he possibly could. He killed it. He has such an amazing, growly scream and a singing voice that’s so beautiful and melodic. It’s rare to meet an artist that’s that driven and passionate.”

Darkness Bleeds, FOTF
“Fiona [Bevan], this amazing singer from the UK, sings with me. When I listen to the song, there's a little bit of musical influence from the past 20 years: I hear a little bit of Warped Tour punk, I hear a little bit of LINKIN PARK-type rock, I hear a little bit of a classic Used catchy chorus. It feels like the whole progression of the band, as grown and weathered and tested musicians.”

To Feel Something
“This is an emotionally charged message, direct and to the point. Everybody wants to feel like they fit in and everybody wants to feel like they're part of something. It’s something that David Foster Wallace said that really stuck out to me: 'Everybody is identical in their own personal belief that they are truly different from everyone else.'”

SONG
Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton
1
2:47
 
Blow Me (feat. Jason Aalon Butler)
2
3:20
 
BIG, WANNA BE
3
3:30
 
Bloody Nose
4
3:04
 
Wow, I Hate This Song
5
2:56
 
My Cocoon
6
1:00
 
Cathedral Bell
7
3:04
 
1984 (infinite jest)
8
2:44
 
Gravity's Rainbow
9
4:14
 
Clean Cut Heals
10
2:51
 
Heartwork
11
1:22
 
The Lighthouse (feat. Mark Hoppus)
12
2:51
 
Obvious Blasé (feat. Travis Barker)
13
2:52
 
The Lottery (feat. Caleb Shomo)
14
2:44
 
Darkness Bleeds, FOTF
15
4:01
 
To Feel Something
16
2:56
 

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