For Fans Of
In 2004, a relatively unknown Say Anything released their second studio album and Doghouse Records debut, …Is A Real Boy, and the world fell in love with vocalist Max Bemis and his loathing, self deprecating outlook on his world. They soon had major label attention and the world of indie labels was in their past.
Travel forward to 2012, there must have been a united “woop” when fans found out that Say Anything were heading back to an indie label and into the hands of …Is A Real Boy’s producer Tim O’Heir, heading into the studio with the band’s only two original members Bemis and drummer Coby Linder. But just like any return home after a number of years, nothing stays exactly the same. People change, environments shift and as everyone soon found out, the world isn’t such a shitty place for Max Bemis anymore.
Usually when a punk band heads back to an indie label after being on a major, they often adopt a no-holds-bared, no limitations in sight, approach to their album. However, in true Say Anything style they have done completely the opposite, filling Anarchy, My Dear – their sixth studio album – with lushness, delicacy and a measured sense of direction.
Bemis promised the album would try to capture the band’s edgier on stage side and album opener “Burn A Miracle” definitely heads in that direction. Opening with a clapping, chanted section it urges the listener to immediately get involved and right until the final drum beat you can hear everything you would expect in a great Say Anything track: upbeat and groovy guitar and bass lines and driving drum beats that move between measured and chaotic at any given time and Bemis’ angst layered gritty vocals spitting lyrics that say exactly what he intends with a layer of crazy mixed in. The album definitely begins on a high.
Even at his brashest, Bemis always seems to be able to inject bratty, pop punk anthems with his own version of craft, quirk and introspection. The only problem with “Burn A Miracle”, and something that can be found right throughout the album, is that a lot of the time, the edge Bemis sharpens on his lyrics loses it’s sting musically. All too easily cushy synths and measured muddles guitar lines soften Bemis’ snarl.
One thing ever present on this record is Bemis’ sharply worded tirades, beautifully written and injected with spite. These can be found right through out the album, from “Admit It Again” to “Sheep”. However, at times they feel like less of an attack and more of a misguided rant. Mixed between these are “Bemis-style” love songs. Using his dark humour to paint grandiose pictures of his love and devotion such as in Say Anything (the track) when Bemis sings “Condemn my race to genocide if it meant that I could lay with you”. Another example of this is “So Good”, packed full of layered instrumentation and perfectly arranged barbs of romantic anguish, it proves that Bemis’ songs do have the potential to be stunning.
Anarchy, My Dear is 50 minutes of hoping something breath taking will happen, and it never quite hits the mark. Maybe the promise of ‘anarchy’ laid out a false canvas where Bemis could really paint his feelings and release them through our speakers, full of his tongue in cheek banter layered in spunk and bite. Instead what fills this record is something less than that idea, something perfectly measured and crafted, aiming for stunning but only occasionally getting beautiful, and a lot of the time settling for just okay.
While the album may not be as gut grabbing or as energetic as some of the band’s previous releases, it does prove that Say Anything is a band that knows exactly the way that they want to sound. Throughout the entire record there is not a single lyrics or melody that doesn’t feel like it was made to fit exactly where it is. While the album may not make you want to jump out of your seat and rebel against the current state of society, it’s timing, measuredness and sense of self-awareness do create something to think about.
The album closer, “The Stephen Hawking” sums up the whole album in a seven and a half minute package. A simple soft drumbeat and a steady repeated guitar line carry softly spoken vocals as Bemis (in true Bemis fashion) aims to cut holes in his subject matter. “If you’re the sun, I’m a black hole” cues a change in pace, and slowly the track begins to pick up. Now Bemis’ signature angry, gritty vocals are carried by bouncy guitar and steady drum and bass, occasionally layered with twinkling bells, and finally there is the feeling of completeness. This time when Bemis screams, “If you’re the sun, I’m a black hole” it is layered in the spite and anger that has been bubbling for 40 minutes, as he throws away his self-control. The tempo again changes, becoming rockier, filled with quick frenzied guitars and steady, even drums. As the tracks slows right down melodic guitar and slow, simple drumbeats carrying vocals that move between shouting and melodic and it finally feels like that true Bemis spunk is shining through.
With the promise of an edgier punk record and the hope of a return to the old days, expectations for Say Anything’s sixth studio album, Anarchy, My Dear were set high well before it’s release. What fans, and listeners alike, will find on this record may not be exactly what they expected but they will find their feet tapping along anyway. At times you might scratch your head as Bemis and co. blur the line between societal criticisms and confessional outpouring of grandiose gestures of love, but once the record stops playing you will be left with something to think about.
1. Burn A Miracle
2. Say Anything
3. Night’s Song
4. Admit It Again
5. So Good
7. Peace Out
9. Of Steel
10. Anarchy, My Dear
11. The Stephen Hawking