Review Summary: As a blueprint for greatness it succeeds, but as a respectable release it simply can't get off the ground. This is Say Anything's "Baseball," and the band would rather you not know of its existence.
Oh Max Bemis, you crass yet lovable bastard, how I’ve grown accustomed to your booze fueled debauchery and sleazy escapades. With …Is A Real Boy
, you and your cohorts showed me your brand of coarse and endearing pop-punk, which was later expanded beyond imagination with In Defense of the Genre
. However, these were not the very beginnings of Say Anything, as there was a decidedly different band that started one of today’s most critically lauded pop-punk acts. This was a beginning that the band has been trying to bury; an album near unrecognizable by those who’ve loved the band over the years. Said album is Baseball
, and it could best be described as the skeleton in Say Anything’s closet.
Perhaps the most profound thing that can be said about Baseball
is that the band itself does not recognize its existence, claiming their first release to have been …Is A Real Boy
. And while this seems like a bit of a slimy thing to do, it’s tough to blame them, as Baseball
simply isn’t up to Say Anything standard. It’s rough, immature, and staggeringly unrefined. Max Bemis isn’t that guy you love to be repelled by, but instead he plays the part of the loud asshole that causes people to leave parties. He lacks lyrical finesse, belting out lines in a tremendously vapid fashion. The writing is silly and heavy-handed, rather than clever and cute.
But the real failing of Baseball
is its stunningly poor musicianship. Oh it’s rough around the edges for sure, with the most unflattering production doing a surprising amount of damage. Power chords and predictable percussion work only add more nails to the coffin, with the members unabashedly playing overly simplistic music that does no favors to the uninteresting songs themselves. Songs blend together, with each hackneyed pop-punk tune sounding just like the one before it. This is exacerbated by the confounding runtime of seventy minutes. The album drags and drags, giving the same feeling of exhaustion felt after a marathon. Length typically isn’t an issue for Say Anything, as the band usually has enough stellar content to fill multiple discs (literally), but Baseball
is so dry and forgettable that it feels twice as long as it actually is.
Getting past Max Bemis’ lackluster vocal delivery and lyrical content, as well as the band’s poor performance overall, it’s still difficult to find an endearing album here. The very core is flawed, with poor musicianship and songwriting simply destroying any and all possibilities of a solid record. Yet as a stepping stone it succeeds in many respects. It’s like a rough blueprint; a minor sketch of what would later become a fantastic product. Too bad said sketches are far too broken to rest on their own laurels.