Don’t miss the Nothing Matters tour with blackbear and MOD SUN tonight at The Fillmore in Philly! For tickets and more info click here! Doors open at 7 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m., when opening act MOD SUN takes center stage.
blackbear wasn’t at Made in America. But if you managed to make your way over to the Ben Franklin Parkway this weekend, then chances are you heard blackbear pulsing through the air. The one-time Ne-Yo protégé has penned hits for MIAFest’s most recent pop princess Tate McRae, plus alumni like G-Eazy, blackbear’s LA neighbor. During lockdown, blackbear finally broke onto the Billboard Hot 100 all by himself thanks to “hot girl bummer”, an intoxicating pop-rap club concoction that spawned an unrelenting trend of angsty emo chick TikToks.
Now, blackbear is back and not with just the same old new album either. Much like his good bro MGK, blackbear trades fitted caps and pre-programmed beats for devil horns and stompbox guitars on in loving memory. But as I wrote about earlier this week, for blackbear, embracing pop-punk is like coming back home.
in loving memory is hitting the road this fall. The Nothing Matters tour kicked off last week, when blackbear popped back by The Late Late Show. Luckily, he was spared from being taken hostage for Carpool Karaoke. But blackbear did perform new single “toxic energy” in what appears to be Hollywood’s most unspooky graveyard. It’s one of the better songs on the album, a gothic speedster that’s gassed up by towering woah-ohs and shredding solos. Think Echo & the Bunnymen, but if Will Sergeant grew up on MySpace.
That’s none other than Travis Barker filling in on drums. The blink-182 lynchpin, who’s grown into the elder statesman behind pop-punk’s latest revival, co-produced in loving memory alongside blackbear. But the real guest of honor here is Bert McCracken.
I love watching The Used frontman unleash his blood-spewing zombie roar all over cable television in 2022. It’s now been 20 years since The Used helped push pop-punk onto the commercial airwaves. Granted, the band didn’t fully dip into the pop side of that equation until their much-anticipated follow-up. And they waited until Lies for the Liars before indulging in My Chemical Romance-levels of vaudevillian extravagance. On their first album, The Used fell closer to Thursday than Taking Back Sunday.
The Used are all from the quaint, family-friendly mountain town of Orem, Utah. They started out as a band of misfits, two guitarists and a drummer who were casting around the neighborhood punk scene in search of a singer. But once McCracken nailed his audition, you could argue that The Used became the very embodiment of screamo.
My opinion is admittedly warped. After all, I was one of those kids who rushed home after school so I could root for “Taste of Ink” to bump Britney Spears or *NSYNC off TRL. Of course, that never happened. As with Alien Ant Farm and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and countless other countdown bottom-feeders, The Used were glossed over by the sparkly plastic teen-pop that bulldozed the Billboard charts during the early ‘00s. But I just took The Used out on a run and am back to confirm that this album can still headbang with Deja Entendu or Take This to Your Grave.
Maybe that strikes you as overzealous. I admit, the string swells on “Greener with the Scenery” are a bit much. But the Chicks reference that’s slipped in at the beginning of “On My Own?” Okay, even for me, that’s a stretch. And the hidden track? Wildly unnecessary.
Hear me out though. Because the warthog grunt that introduces the grunge slew of opener “Maybe Memories”? Oh, yeah. Douse me with more of that sloppy sludge, please. The spidery tapping on “Bulimic”? Wicked. The craggy bass thwomps that break down “Poetic Tragedy”? Righteous. The enraged hornets nest that is “Say Days Ago”? Gnaws my face off. And we haven’t even gotten to Bert McCracken yet.
Bert’s voice is like radioactive Play-Doh. He reaches into his throat on “A Box Full of Sharp Objects” and stretches out a guttural, heinous, tar-black ghoul growl that could command an army of the undead into battle. But he can also cower into a wounded whisper, like he does while crawling deep inside the underwater wreckage of “Blue and Yellow”. The way he shivers against those shadowy piano chords? Motherfuckin’ beautiful.
But if you really want to know how The Used stack up amongst the pop-punk ranks, then just listen to “Buried Myself Alive”. I mean, god damn. The riff is a cresting tsunami, the drums a hailstorm of nails. You could crumble a mountain with the heavenly shriek that Bert unleashes on that climactic, gasping final chorus. “If you want me back, you’re gonna have to ask niiiicceeerrrr than that”. I know I’m letting myself get carried away with the metaphors here. But I’m telling you, that screaming middle finger is so sinister and searing it could burn a hole through the atmosphere faster than a flaming meteor.
This probably goes without saying, but I was a pretty angsty emo kid myself. My mom used to eye me nervously on the drive to church as I brooded in the backseat, headphones blaring. Whether I was depressed about my acne or just pissed at being forced to sit through another boring sermon, whatever was upsetting me was not, it turns out, the end of the world. But listening to “Buried Myself Alive” was a release.
Bert McCracken was raised Mormon. He ran away from home at 16. For a while, he was homeless. Then he found The Used (really, they found each other). Every time I heard Bert scream, it was like he was handing me a match that could set the world on fire. When you’re young and confused and alone, sometimes, that spark is all you need. The Used ruled so hard. Heck, The Used still rule. If you missed out on this album the first time around, or if, like me, you haven’t thought about it in a while, go ahead and do yourself a favor.
Mod Sun doesn’t show up on blackbear’s new album. That’s a surprise in itself. I wrote about their long budding bromance on Monday. But, in summary, the two share an affinity for bleached blonde highlights, fashionably ripped cargo pants and music videos that feel like you’ve just taken a bong rip and fallen into a Saturday morning cartoon.
We still have to get through the bum-rush of the winter holidays and what I’m hoping is just one more wasted season of watching James Harden sweat out a hangover, but 2022 has already proven to be a hectic and eventful year for Mod Sun. He just celebrated his fiancé Avril Lavigine cementing her place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also starred in Good Mourning, an ode to stoner comedies that he wrote and directed with the film’s star Machine Gun Kelly, who plays London Clash, a not-so-subtly named actor who might be illiterate?
To top it all off, Mod Sun is gearing up for the release of Rich Kids Ruin Everything. It’s his second album since making the switch back to pop-punk. Listening to new single “Battle Scars”, I’d say we’re in store for a double dose of chugga-chugga riffs and anthemic drum pounds.
But blackbear and Mod Sun did manage to get back together early last year for the deluxe edition of Internet Killed the Rockstar. “Heavy” does starts off with some dare I say Edge-like delayed guitar noodling. As soon as the bass drops though, the song swirls right back into the wavy, wobbly, comatose EDM type beat that these two used to swap verses over during their SoundCloud rapper phase. I don’t know if we’ll hear “Heavy” tonight. You can’t mosh to it. But the chillaxed vibe would keep the party going between guitar tunings.
More on Mylifeinsound: