Sean Richardson
October 01, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

With their auspicious 2002 debut, the Used got a leg up on the competition in the alt-rock charisma sweepstakes, thanks to spastic frontman Bert McCracken. He lets his freak flag fly even higher on their new studio album, In Love and Death, which is both artier and more accessible. It’s also less consistent, but the band still excels at balancing rage (”Take It Away”) and romance (”I Caught Fire”). These days, punk is for lovers — and the Used are among its leading men.

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