Review Summary: Half apathetic and half decent, Anarchy, My Dear is an album destined to just exist.
It seemed inevitable that Say Anything would eventually release a sub-par album. Forever a band built around their frontman’s unstable lifestyle and manic depressive tendencies, the sudden upturn in fortunes for Max Bemis socially was always going to change the band’s fragile dynamic. Back in 2004, the release of …Is A Real Boy sparked notoriety in the pop-punk scene for both its well-crafted, multi-layered musicianship (Woe
, Every Man Has A Molly
) and for its effortlessly poignant lyricism (Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat
, Admit It!
), a notoriety that grew as Say Anything’s stock rose ever higher. Even when the aggression was scaled down for 2009’s self-titled album, the bite and quirkiness remained; the refined ballads represented a transition in the frontman’s lifestyle but retained the characteristic sense of cynicism and resentment that defined the band. With all that said, Anarchy, My Dear
, the first ever self-proclaimed “true punk” album recorded by the band, needed to have a quirk of its own without sacrificing the angst of previous albums, and in that respect it is a downright failure.
The issue of a lack of identity is prominent throughout Anarchy, My Dear
and contributes heavily to the uneasy progression between tracks that hinders the cohesion and consistency of the album. Opening track Burn a Miracle
partially succeeds where the majority of the record fails in that it feels like a punk song, hostile yet unifying with its hand-claps, clever wordplay and anthemic chorus. In fact, the first three tracks have a clear evolution in style, and while lacking a little ambition, Night’s Song
clearly progresses well from the ballad heavy Say Anything
and displays genuinely heartfelt emotion. Unfortunately the ill-conceived Admit It Again
ends any momentum created by the opening trio, limply rehashing old ideas without any notable purpose or agenda. This laziness is prominent throughout the entire middle section, with ideas both lyrically and musically generously ‘borrowed’ from their back catalogue without any originality or substance, failings which are accentuated through an absence of any pertinent tempo changes. Almost immediately the album stalls and not even guest vocal performances from Mrs Sherri DuPree-Bemis herself can alleviate the uninspiring nature of Overbiter
or So Good
Though duplicated and lazy nothing here is completely devoid of positives – Sheep
is full of good ideas, as is the title track - but these are often lost in a wash of overbearing production. Like their self-titled before it, a sleek, glossy sheen has been applied, removing imperfections but at the same time reducing the impact of what’s left. It’s unsurprising that the bookmarks are the two tracks that provide Anarchy, My Dear
any sense of purpose or direction as uniquely they’re left slightly raw and unpolished. The Stephen Hawking
is a finale worthy of being called a Say Anything track, a gloriously uncertain four-part embodiment of all the best qualities the band is capable of. Liberated from the wash of over-production and glossy synths, Bemis’ caustic snarl is unleashed and an anarchic atmosphere finally reveals itself on an album supposedly celebrating that very property. It is a disappointing reality, but Max Bemis no longer has the drive to produce such work on a consistent basis, and instead of trying to relive past glories, he’d be better suited to trying something a bit different.
Overall 2.5 Average