Say Anything is a band very dear to me. When I first spoke with lead singer Max Bemis about doing a show together at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood, we were both still in high school. At that show, my long forgotten high school band headlined. Say Anything played early, but by far drew the biggest crowd. I’ll never forget my mom (who of course drove me and half of our equipment to the venue) remarking to me after meeting Max and his mother how handsome he was. My mother was one of the original Max Bemis groupies.
Over the years I’ve followed the band throughout lineup changes, personal drama, and of course their evolving sound. “Is A Real Boy” was their first commercial success, and won them droves of fans all around the world. The follow up, “In Defense of the Genre”, was a bit of a departure. First of all, it was a double CD. I remember thinking to myself, “What are they, Guns N’ Roses? Following up their first hit album with a double album?”
Though I liked “Defense”, I didn’t feel like it had the same in-your-face raw appeal of the former album. This is of course not uncommon. I wouldn’t quite call it a “sophomore slump”, as “Defense” was definitely a quality album. My personal favorite track of that album is “That is Why”. But I digress…
Today, the new self-titled Say Anything record hit the shelves. I’ve listened to it all the way through twice now, and am currently on my third spin.
There are albums that you know are great on the first listen. Some of those get old really quick, and the truly great ones stand the test of time. Then there are albums that seem okay at first, but then creep up on you and become very dear to you. It is obviously too soon to tell exactly where this album will fit in, but on the first listen I was definitely captivated. Let me tell you why!
The reason I love Max’s songwriting is pretty simple: He blends ironic, clever, and borderline-asshole lyrics with truly infectious melodies. As far as I’m concerned,that is the kind of music I could listen to all day long. During the first listen of this album, I put it on as background music as I mindlessly played video games. I do this sometimes before writing a review (which isn’t really all that often) in order to sort of get a subconscious feel for the album, so when I really start to analyze it, it’s more familiar to me.
Trouble is, Max employs such brilliant and arguably ridiculous lyrics, it becomes impossible to allow it to become background noise. Lyrics keep jumping out of the stereo that make you go…”wait, did he just say what I think he said?” Then I have to stop what I’m doing to rewind.
For example, consider the lead-off single, “Hate Everyone”, is basically a beautifully melodic anthem celebrating blind hatred for human kind in general. The song takes you from Max’s birth to adolescence to the present day, all illustrated with an ultra cynical paintbrush that helps us understand how the singer came to have such a jaded view on his fellow Homosapiens. Towards the end of the song, Max shares with us a brief list of some of the things he has grown to hate most, including:
“(I hate) that hospital in Texas. (I hate) the rapper in the Lexus. (I hate) the pills I ate for breakfast.”
In the vein of fairness, after proclaiming repeatedly that he hates everyone, Max comes to the realization that “I guess that everyone includes me…and that’s why I’m a humanist”, and then the beautifully pessimistic track comes to an end. I must admit I laughed out loud at that point.
The following track, “Do Better”, has the same tone of unadulterated criticism of society as a whole, but this time we get a positive message somehow hidden beneath the attacks. We’re reminded of how mundane and unoriginal we’ve become after being consumed with vices like booze and sitcoms, but then Max offers words of encouragement in the chorus: “You could do better, could do better, you could be the greatest man in the world”. And once again he points the finger at himself towards the end with “We could do better, we could do better, we could be the greatest band in the world”.
Every song on this album makes you think. I don’t have the time to go into detail about every track (or maybe I do and I’m just lazy/incapable of editing anything down to a readable size), but I will mention a couple favorites of mine that resonate the most with me after these first few listens.
- Mara and Me - For three reasons: 1) A brutal lyrical assault against the Kings of Leon 2) Max demonstrating lyrically that he has already considered any possible objective opinion you might form in regard to his songwriting 3) An absolutely brilliant refrain
- She Won’t Follow You - Just plain catchy as all hell. I like this.
- Property - The intro is an homage to the pop music of the 1950s, then it kicks into signature Say Anything rock while exploring and somewhat celebrating controlling relationships.
- Death For My Birthday - If I had to predict the next single off this album, this would be it. As soon as the song kicks off it has “radio” written all over it. Somehow I think Max might take offense to that, but I mean it in the kindest way. The emo kids will surely cling to this one, regardless of the song’s intent.
You get the idea. I obviously have nothing negative to say about this album. The fact of the matter is, I don’t like writing negative reviews. This sort of paints me into a corner, since most of the new music coming out nowadays is crap.
Thank you, Say Anything, for this refreshing piece of work. Everyone go buy it. Obey.
That is all.
PS Check out the music video for “Hate Everyone” here:
Say Anything - Hate Everyone
Say Anything | MySpace Video