Every time I hear Say Anything I will forever think of a book called Choke
by Chuck Palahniuk. It has nothing to do with the lyrics of Max Bemis intertwining with the story in Choke, as I’m pretty sure Bemis doesn’t write about choking yourself in public to earn money. No, the reason I will forever connect the character of Victor Mancini with Say Anything is because I exclusively listened to Say Anything’s …Is a Real Boy while reading the book. This is strange for me, because I normally listen to much more ambient music whilst reading but for some reason, while lying on my bed in a Chicago hotel waiting for Lollapalooza’s second day, I chose Say Anything over the usual Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Boards of Canada. Whatever the reason was, that listen through …Is a Real Boy was what changed my mind on the album. It was that listen that made me change my previous perspective on the album, a slightly boring, but well-written Pop-Punk album, to what I think of it today, which will be explained in the following paragraphs.
Max Bemis, the guitarist, bassist, lyricist and vocalist of Say Anything, is simply put the best lyricist in Rock (I use this term as loosely as possible) music. Despite …Is a Real Boy’s conceptual leanings; his lyrics are as all-telling as I’ve ever heard from a Punk band. Sometimes he tells it through easily deciphered metaphors like the chorus of It’s a Metaphor, Fool
, where he sings You’re just dead skin, falling from my hand
. But sometimes, most of the time really, the lyrics are as blunt as possible, an example of this is best found on Every Man has a Molly
. Light acoustic guitars set Max up to deliver this lyric: Molly Connolly just broke up with me, over the revealing nature of the songs. You god damn kids had best be gracious with the merch money you spend, because for you I won’t ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again.
. For a second, Bemis comes off as a complete ass
hole, but when the song’s ravaging distorted bass line comes in, equip with loud guitars and pounding drums for backup, all thoughts of Bemis being a jerk disappear.
Despite his lyrics nearly all being about a need for sex, Bemis never comes off as a whiner. Maybe it’s his voice, a strong sort of near shout that has almost no feminine qualities to it. But, masculine shout or not, the man can sing a song about love, that’s for sure. The first single, Alive with the Glory of Love
, from a songwriting perspective is fantastic. The lyrics follow a story of young love in hiding, desperately trying not to be torn apart during The Holocaust, choice lyrics include And when our city, vast and ***ty, falls to the axis, They'll search our buildings, collect gold fillings, wallets, and rings… Beneath the wormwood, oh love me so good, they won't hear us screw away the day. I'll make you say no I won't let them take you, won't let them take you
. Bemis’ lyrics are held up by up-stroked guitar chords in the verses and a gang of back up singers in the super catchy choruses. If the song’s video wasn’t so terrible, this would have been the best song to reach the TRL charts in a long time.
…Is a Real Boy, being a Punk record, is obviously very Guitar-heavy. While his lyric writing ability surpasses his guitar work by a clear margin, Bemis is an excellent guitarist. The fast paced playing on the album’s opener Belt
is a good example of Bemis’s skill. The song features multiple parts; all played by Max, intertwining with each other and, unlike a lot of Say Anything’s contemporaries, all the guitar parts aren’t palm-muted power chords. The rest of Belt is just as good as the guitar playing. The semi-autobiographical lyrics tell the story of an outcast who refuses to sell his creativity and becomes a wanderer. Overtime the outcast gains an army of followers who take on the people who originally made him an outcast. The constant changes of pace that happen within the song manage to keep it fresh time and time again. The end of the song is one of the catchiest outros I have ever come across. Max, joined by what could only be described as an army of backing vocalists, ends the song by singing What say you, And all your friends/ Step up to my friends, In the alley tonight
over tambourine aided strummed chords, the result is almost so perfect its difficult to describe.
Nearly an entire album later comes a song so different from Belt; it would be hard to tell they were from the same band if it weren’t for Bemis’s distinct vocals. I Want to Know Your Plans
’ verses are driven by two acoustic guitars, and Bemis’s successful attempts at singing a ballad, accented by a girl’s voice. During the choruses the same acoustic guitars are joined by heavily affected drums, creating a very uplifting combination. Max’s voice, as rough sounding as it is, turns out to work very well in a ballad type situation and, despite this hardly being his best lyrical performance, the song contains some great lines ( You could hit me or whip me, I’d savor each lash
) and is very catchy. In all honesty I Want to Know Your Plans should end the album, but then again Admit It!!!
, a lengthy rant about the current scene set over fast paced Pop-Punk, really would fit anywhere else. Either way, when …Is A Real Boy ends it leaves you with both a feeling of satisfaction and a desire for more.
And if you are left with a desire for more, more you will receive. Up until now it hasn’t been brought up that the re-released version of …Is A Real Boy contains a bonus disk featuring 7 tracks previously only available by illegal downloads. …Was a Real Boy
a.k.a. Vs. The Aids Virus was originally supposed to be released as an EP to raise money for charity but wasn’t released because only-member-that-really-matters Max Bemis was worried the band wouldn’t be famous enough to raise a substantial amount of money. When played back to back with …Is a Real Boy, …Was pails in comparison but alone it’s a fairly solid record.
The first track off the EP is definitely one of its highlights. Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too
is fairly different than every other track of both discs. Driven by a looped Electric Piano, the song almost has an R&B feel to it. Other than some Poppy drumming and barely noticeable Bass, Wow contains some lightly distorted bluesy licks here and there. If the title didn’t clue you in enough, the lyrics to Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too are all about sex. Phone sex, to be specific. The hook to the song, I called her on the phone, and she touched herself
is as catchy as it is painfully blunt. Other choice lines include When she described her underwear
I forgot all the rules my rabbi taught me in the old school
. Different as it may be, Wow is a fine song and a decent choice for single number two.
The rest of …Was a Real Boy is different in many aspects. First off it is much worse off production wise than …Is a Real Boy. …Was is a lot more lo-fi when compared to the crisp, clean …Is. Also, unlike Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too …Was a Real Boy is really rocking. Tracks like It’s a Metaphor, Fool
and I Will Never Write an Obligatory Song About Missing Someone on the Road
are some of the finest Pop-Punk tunes to be released in the new Millennium, not including the majority of …Is a Real Boy. Disc Two’s only fault is Metal Now, a 2:44 song so lame it makes me wonder why I’ve been jizzing my pants over this album for the last 8 or so paragraphs. But then I remember the raw emotion, “wicked” guitar riffage and over greatness that I’ve been listening to non-stop for the past few weeks and realize why I’ve given …Is a Real Boy a 5/5 and why my pants are stuck to my crotch.