Review Summary: Well at least that little dog on the cover is kind of cute...
For the majority of the last decade, Max Bemis sang about how much of a screw up he was, all while coming across as incredibly likable and charming. It all translates as “cute,” as it’s hard not to like the guy’s blissfully ironic, self deprecating lyrics, mixed with an amiable pop-punk aesthetic. And really, it’s Bemis who makes Say Anything what it is, as he is the very character and personality of the band, making him an icon among the scene.
Yet without Say Anything, Bemis comes off as contrived , and his shtick; underwhelming. Bemis’s pseudo-side-project, Max Bemis and the Painful Splits is described as “some acoustic songs he feels proud of," and said project’s self-titled debut would be so much more enjoyable were it not so underwhelming, bland, and uninspired. Although at the time of writing this Say Anything was on the verge of breaking up, this album feels void of Bemis’s personal involvement. Typically, he holds back nothing in his work, often making for an all too personal listen. And while it feels as though there is an attempt to do so here, it doesn’t come across as all that genuine. In all actuality, it just feels like a bunch of Say Anything acoustic b-sides. Added to that, it feels like b-sides Max Bemis
himself. Neither the music, nor the man behind the music ends up saying much, leaving just another guy with an acoustic guitar whining about a girl. Bemis didn’t put his all into this album, and it really hurt the overall product because the music itself simply can’t stand up on its own merit.
Although it’s mostly blasé, the album isn’t without some charms. Sure, it is mostly a guy with a guitar singing about his problems and issues, but at its core it really is somewhat enjoyable. Max Bemis really does have a likable voice, and his guitar skills are decent, and fit rather well with what he is attempting on the album. While there isn’t much differentiation between them, many of the songs still manage to be pretty fun . Selections such as “Chlorine Bath” and “Little Star” are pretty catchy, while “Our Sentence Is Up” is rather beautiful. Yeah there really isn’t a whole lot of variety and variation, but it’s hard not to get even a modicum of enjoyment out of songs like “Neodouche” and “Assimilate All Bastards.” Fun factor aside, there just isn’t enough here to warrant high praise. Neither is songwriting or lyrics are anything new, and the painful simplicity of each tune makes for a thoroughly uninteresting listen.
Max Bemis is a likable guy and musician, and he has been proving that for years. Unfortunately, Max Bemis and the Painful Splits
doesn’t do much to further prove that sentiment. Even though it’s worthy of a few listens, it simply doesn’t stick because it wears all too quickly. Fans of his music may find something wonderful here, but the population at large will find this a gimmicky and contrived, and sadly, it’s rather difficult to argue this.