Review Summary: taking a detour from the hype train
In most cases, the masses are already forming an opinion of an album before its physical release date. With the release of a few singles, as well as a glance at the tracklisting and cover art, you already know what you 'think' you should expect from (insert band name here’s) new album. The problem is, while these preexisting expectations can stir up excitement, they often act as a hindrance to the final product. Maybe we shouldn’t be judging an album based on something as seemingly inconsequential as the accompanying artwork, but we’ve all done it; guilty as charged. With Say Anything’s new album, however, their leader has made a bold move and decided to steer clear from the typical hype train. The result is one of the wackiest, downright chaotic releases of the band’s career.
Although Max Bemis aims to put all apprehension regarding his new album to rest this time around, he’s certainly no stranger to hype. With Anarchy, My Dear
we were promised Is A Real Boy, Part 2
, yet the general consensus was NOT good, and that’s putting it lightly. The follow-up, Hebrews
, received better reception, but was also plagued by negative responses to unrealistic presumptions. Long before the album was released we knew there would be a plethora of guest musicians, no guitars, and of course the name of every schizophrenic song. Granted, Bemis usually doesn’t do himself any favors by trying to “sell” the album ahead of its release date. Thus, his decision to avoid the hype this time around is a welcome surprise. The beauty of an album like I Don’t Think It Is
lies in the fact that it could quite literally sound like anything, and nobody could grumble based solely on expectations; it’s quite refreshing, really.
Without giving too much away, I Don’t Think It Is
holds its own as one of Say Anything’s rawest and most authentic offerings. Bemis wasn’t setting out to please anybody; he simply made music, and this is it. Upon dropping the album out of nowhere, Bemis admitted he had no plans on how it would turn out --improvisation was a key factor here. As such, the album sounds awfully noisy and abrasive from the get-go. With an intentionally rough production job and Bemis shouting like a maniac in nearly every track, it feels considerably more genuine than his recent affairs. That’s not to say he’s the only musician here worth mentioning, however. Darren King of Mutemath makes a notable contribution here, adding his creative drumming and various electronic effects to the mix. Between King’s unique touch to the project and the addition of several guest vocalists, the album contains no shortage of intrigue.
Perhaps it’s a telling sign that Bemis is at his very best when he just goes through the motions, rather than dressing up every song with a crisp presentation. I Don’t Think It Is
may be far from perfect, but that’s sort of the point. While not as initially rewarding as his typical work, the constant energy mixed with the ‘rough around the edges’ approach will keep you coming back for more. In a way, Say Anything’s latest surprise release is more compelling for what it represents than the actual music it contains. Despite my best efforts, I can’t remember the last time I threw on a record knowing what was contained within was a complete mystery. And you know what? I had a pretty good time not giving a damn.