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Holding The Used up to rock-star standards

click to enlarge The Used, seen here in a rare, calmly reflective moment.
  • The Used, seen here in a rare, calmly reflective moment.

It's a simple fact: Aspiring rock stars need to live a rock 'n roll lifestyle. To become bigger than life, they must pursue more than collecting groupies and swilling PBR. They need to rock on an almost superhuman plane. They need to become capital "R" Rock.

The Utah-based quartet The Used have bravely attempted to fill those shoes, combining the elements of an intense rock band with more drugs, drinking and general shenanigans than you can shake an emo kid at.

After releasing a popular self-titled album, the group toured with Ozzfest and gained a rabid fan base. Their second album, 2002's acclaimed In Love and Death, only heightened the hoopla. Do The Used have what it takes to rise to the next level, to really be Rock?

Let's examine the facts. The band members originally gathered to rage against their Mormon upbringings. While rebelling always makes for fitting criteria, we can look to In Love and Death for further clues. The cock of a rifle signals the opening to "Take It Away," a sure-fire mosh classic blending layered vocals, drum loops and a chant-worthy chorus.

Singer Bert McCracken's vocals are of the high-pitched, painfully earnest variety, equally forceful, pleading and screaming. McCracken, more commonly known as Kelly Osborne's ex-boyfriend, is supported by bassist Jeph Howard, guitarist Quinn Allman and drummer Branden Steineckert.

Themes roam the teenage gamut of loneliness, pain and violence, wrangling in what is important to the disillusioned and disenfranchised youth is an important aspect of Rock.

That brand of angry, pain-laden music is something Howard, speaking from his home in Salt Lake City, thinks the band will shed when they record their next album. Though he won't comment on possible shifts in style, he's sure changes of some variety will occur.

"We've grown up a lot, even from the first album," he says. "I can see us continuing to change, grow up, and it's all going to reflect that."

Although he plays in an internationally recognized band -- not least for McCracken screaming so hard he often throws up onstage -- Howard's musical heart lies elsewhere.

"Yeah, actually, I never listen to the music that we play," he says, laughing. "All I listen to is hip-hop and metal. I really love Ghostface [Killah] and MF Doom ... I'm also listening to a lot of The Black Dahlia Murder and Norther."

Raging against the parental-religious majority machine? Unabated rock music? Vomiting singer? The necessary ingredients are there, but the balance lies in the song "All That I've Got," a crushing quasi-ballad that appears to be about a lover leaving McCracken. Turns out it's actually a tribute to his Chihuahua, David Bowie, who was killed by a car.

A Chihuahua named David Bowie? Sounds like Rock to me.

-- Kara Luger

capsule

The Used with Glassjaw, 30 Seconds to Mars and The New Transit Direction

City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St.

Saturday, Aug. 13, 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25 in advance, $27 at the door, all ages; call 520-9090 or log onto ticketmaster.com.

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