Say Anything

Say Anything

Written by: TL on 03/12/2009 23:11:21

Exactly one month ago, Say Anything brought the world their fourth album, this time making it self-titled, to send a signal, that on this disc, they felt they would truly define the band's identity for years to come. And by my usual habit of giving a good review away within two sentences, I'll reveal already, that if this album is truly what we can expect from Say Anything in the future, and if there's any justice in the world, then in ten years time, the band and their front figure Max Bemis will be revered in a manner similar to how The Smiths and Morrissey are revered today. That is how good Say Anything, both band and album are, just before the turn of the decade.

But but but, pause the praise and allow for presentations, after all, Say Anything is a band that has scarcely seen any promotion on this side of the pond and some of you poor souls might not yet know of them. To redeem you, I'll reveal that Say Anything is probably best explained as an art experimental pop/rock act, although not experimental in the common sense of the word. You see, these boys don't utilize any overblown, exotic soundscapes, no sir, in fact, their guitars are still kept as garage and buzzing as their use of synth and keys are kept minimalistic and subtle, displaying clear connections to the emo/punk pioneers of the past decade (the band have also professed themselves, to being influenced by bands like Saves The Day, Pavement, Queen, Sunny Day Real Estate and Bob Dylan, to name but a few). Now, where the experimentation comes in is in what seems like a tireless attempt at finding new rules to break when it comes to writing music. So far this has come to expression in oddly structured songs, lyrics and song titles seemingly deliberately aimed to be both as personal and as provocative as possible, and in a third album that took shape as an outrageously ambitious double feature. This is the double sided nature of a band which on one hand is as cheeky and poppy as they come, yet on the other constantly oversteps the boundaries any money-making pop-artist would consider to be his ABC.

"Say Anything", the new album, operates on a similar premise, yet something has indeed changed, compared to the bands previous material. The first thing any returning listener should notice, is how the dark, introverted style of "In Defense Of The Genre" has been substituted for a much sunnier, and more open one. This change goes hand in hand with the lyrical content, which suggests that Bemis finally eased up on questioning himself, turning his attention outwards, instead of giving us another stream of doubt and self-loathing, even if we would probably have loved it as much as before. The tendency is not all gone though, as shown early in the words:

"Did you know, that there are people in the world, annoyed with all the other people in the world? And of all these angry people in the world, I am the angriest boy!"

Such opens "Hate Everyone", the leading single, at track two, with a bouncy beat, catchy guitar strumming and more of Bemis' unforgettable lyrics. Soon however, the perspective is changed as I suggested earlier, for instance in "Less Cute", which I at least interpret as a song written from inside the head of a girl in Bemis' past, the decisions of whom he seems less than understanding towards. I don't want to give away too many lyrics, but I don't think I need to mention that they are fantastic. As for the suggested rule-breaking, check out "Mara And Me", which opens with a circus tune, bitter comments about Kings Of Leon and backup vocals alá Set Your Goals!, only to break on the middle when Bemis cuts the song short, realizing:

"Wait a second, I can't write the same damn song over and over again. I can't define myself, through irony and self-deprecation! I can't deny myself - being alive - through my alienation!"

It's in lyrics like these, that Say Anything give away what makes them one of the most special bands in the scene today. It's in that poetic post-modern awareness, which soaks through both words and compositions, allowing Bemis to draw negative, yet witty and humorous caricatures, of not only the perspectives of those around him, but also of his own viewpoint. And the cheeky bastard knows it, and he has made it his trademark much in the same way a certain Fall Out Boy bassist has, yet on this album, Bemis and friends decisively overtake their more commercially successful contemporaries, by being simply that little bit better. That little bit more personal and believable, no doubt as a direct effect of the fantastic singing. Again, not fantastic in the normal way, where notes are extended and croons reach for a sky high pitch, no, fantastic because of how the lyrics are spat, whispered, slurred and sneered, making you feel like the singer was entirely wrapped up in reliving the stories his lyrics tell, when he recorded the vocals, yet still he communicates them flawlessly, laying bare the childish emotions that many of us would admit to being driven by, were we really honest with ourselves.

As such, I could keep speaking of the brilliance of odd, yet heart-wrenchingly sincere declaration of love "Crush'd", of the passionate longing of "Cemetery" or of the strange, yet devilishly sing-along-able tale of ambition called "Death For My Birthday" - But there's no reason to go on like that, because the truth is that for every single song on this disc, Say Anything offer yet another slice of their brilliantly memorable songwriting. This might not be an exhibition in technicality when it comes to creating soundscapes, guitar solos or epic compositions, but in the mood and attitude of this Say Anything record, lies a rarity unparalleled by most experimental bands regardless of genre. Album of the year so far for this writer.

Download: Hate Everyone, Death For My Birthday, Cemetery... no wait, you should definitely buy the whole thing!
For The Fans Of: Weezer, Motion City Soundtrack, The Matches, Fall Out Boy

Release Date 03.11.2009
Doghouse/ RCA Records

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