Review Summary: How much more can we really expect? Say Anything is at the crescendo of their skyrocketing career, and their self-titled is the result of two great releases that just got surpassed.
Well, here we go again. Say Anything’s self-titled is bound to be chained to many of the same reactions and headlines that bound critically acclaimed bands this year- “Say Anything sells out,” “If this were any other band it would be dismissed,” and of course the Max Bemis diehards that wouldn’t let the most loathsome of releases stand in their way from calling this a classic. Thankfully, Say Anything
falls somewhere in between but it’s much easier for the latter commentators to justify their opinion than it is for the former critics. Coming off an ambitious double album, Say Anything
manage to keep their swag and keep the ball rolling. Streamlined and focused, Say Anything
is catchy and complete, simple yet satisfying. It’s hard not to compare this to ... Is a Real Boy
, but subsequent listens prove that Max and company have, in fact, matured from their earlier days where two lines wouldn’t pass without an innuendo.
A winning formula is at work, here. Realizing there was little not to love on neither ... Is A Real Boy
nor In Defense Of the Genre
, Say Anything manage to retain the positive factors that made them successes, but also weed out a few of the little snags. The most pronounced of these factors is the length. In Defense
was much too wieldy and large, Bemis seemed to have forgotten he was still stuck in the pop-punk realm and the epic structure of the album was at odds with the nature of the music. Though, Bemis keeps the benefits that were apparent on In Defense
, namely the musical diversity that was a little lacking on ... Is a Real Boy
. One listen to the strings beginning album-highlight “Do It Better” or the horns on follower “Less Cute,” and I can’t help but be reminded of the genius behind “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur.”
By the way, remember that catchy little ditty? Imagine that bouncing, super-catchiness and multiply it by 13. The most obvious attribute on Say Anything
is really unsurpassed by any other band this year. While Say Anything has never really struggled with creating exceptional melodies, I can’t help but think that Say Anything
is their most consistent and phenomenal output in this aspect. “Eloise,” with a chorus that just defines “catchy,” is probably the pinnacle of this achievement. That being said, that crown could be placed on almost any song here, “Less Cute,” “Mara and Me,” “Do Better,” the list goes on and on.
You would think Bemis would run out of witty lines eventually, right? LIke he says himself on, “Mara and Me,” “I can’t define myself through irony and self deprecation.”
On the surface, this is what ... Is a Real Boy
centered around, and In Defense continued on. Say Anything
has Bemis perfecting those feelings, refining them, and presenting convincingly, amazingly without losing that charm or sincerity. “Did you know that there are people in the world, who are angry with all the other people in the world, and of all these angry people in the world, I am the angriest boy,”
Bemis recites to a cheering crowd. Simple and blunt, “I Hate Everyone” is Say Anything at their most harsh and critical, yet feels a bit empty until he pulls out the specifics about “the pills I ate for breakfast,” “my girlfriend though she’s feminine,” “that hospital in Texas,”
and then ends with the ironic, “that’s why I’m a humanist.”
The references are endless and everybody from Bjork, to scientoligists, to The Kings of Leon are unable to escape the sharp bite of Bemis’ songwriting. Like I mentioned earlier, though, it’s apparent some growing up has taken place. Yes, it’s a 25 year old college dropout at the forefront of the songwriting here, but Max Bemis seems to have evolved. Instead of concentrating exclusively on himself and his psychotic tendencies, Bemis expands a little to encompass things like broad spirituality. Don’t worry, Say Anything
retains that great auto-biographical feel, it just seems a little less vain.
If there’s one thing every Say Anything record has in common, it has to be the amazing closer that leaves you with a feeling of completeness. Say Anything
and “Ahhh... Men" is no exception. Max’s rabid sputtering builds to a crescendo over a background chorus of “Can I lie with you in your grave?”
and eventually explodes into a puff of smoke.
Say Anything hasn’t changed their sound much, to their benefit, I would argue. Sharp, catchy pop-punk is obviously Say Anything’s forte. What they have improved upon is the way they’ve gone about creating the album. Say Anything
is more succinct and concise than In Defense
, yet feels just as complete as their breakout, ... Is a Real Boy
. Satisfying and complete, this is the record fans and non-fans alike have been waiting for. Simply, Say Anything is at their absolute best on their self-titled. The self-consciousness of Max Bemis is constructive and very favorable in the sense that he was able to create an album that maintained all the momentum they had built with strong past releases, yet added enough fresh material to call it progression.
Whether it’s the fascination or the excitement, I don’t know, but most people love fireworks. For some unknown reason they always make me feel just a bit better. This isn’t a misfire, by any means. Like a firework, Say Anything
is captivating and dazzling throughout. As the album shoots up into the sky with all its little intricacies and uniqueness, it’s almost more fun to just ignore the details and take the experience as a whole. Fast-paced and colorful, the record peaks at just the right spot, and at the apex it explodes into a frenzy. While you wish it could’ve stuck around just a little longer, you soon realize that it was just substantial enough to leave a lasting imprint, yet not too long to become tedious and boring. Say Anything are going to have to work hard if they plan on topping their self-titled, because though it’s early, this simply sounds like perfection of the sound Say Anything was aiming their firework for. What else could you really ask for?