Release Date: Mar 13, 2012
Record label: Equal Vision
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Emo-Pop, Punk-Pop
Bemis and co. protest on album number five... With a new found comfort in stability, Max Bemis’ Say Anything find themselves stretching outside their usual avenues on ‘Anarchy, My Dear’. This is their protest record, and Bemis is far more self-aware than self-loathing this time around. .
Third-wave emo’s casket will get spit on by many a writer who dares try to pen a retrospective on the freewheeling, Internet-fused, anybody-can-make-a-record 2000s. With its funny haircuts and eyeline and heart-on-sleeve earnestness, it’s the easiest pinata to swing at of the trends that developed in music over the decade, and also the least likely due for a revival anytime soon. But for any band that got big for an album, only to fantastically flop the second time around (cough, Panic! at the Disco) there was one much more worth your time, that was clearly in it for the long haul.
In what might be one of the most pleasantly angst-filled albums of the punk revival, Max Bemis gets back to the earlier, more thematic days of Say Anything on Anarchy, My Dear. With a sound that leans more toward the pop side of pop-punk, the album creates a nice contrast between the pleasant melodies of the songs and the seething, dissatisfied lyrics that rest on top of them. That spirit of discontent is prevalent throughout the entire album, which finds Bemis taking the opportunity to lash out at the world around him in a gesture of anti-cool catharsis.
Say Anything’s bio may read like a punk rock opera, but despite battling through drug use and mental breakdowns (it’s often a thin line between genius and insanity), the band has somehow managed to sustain a loyal following. Many faithful disciples have been conjecturing if this highly anticipated fifth studio release Anarchy, My Dear will live up to its predecessors and the immense pre-release hyperbole, but the answer to that question is a resounding yes. On the band’s first release in three years, frontman Max Bemis’ multifaceted lyrics remain spiritedly sardonic (“…pleasured himself to the music of well-dressed inbred college students), while other times brutally honest (“…and I don’t care which prophet you adore/Who you voted for/It won’t discourage love’s sick former manwhore), which have become Say Anything’s trademark.
Max Bemis has more in common with the misanthropic cult comedian Bill Hicks than with any of the other emo-pop purveyors he’s rubbed elbows with as the frontman for Say Anything; his sharply worded tirades and uncomfortably honest self-portraits have made him one of the most compelling personalities to emerge from the last decade’s glut of mall-punk. Happily enough, Say Anything has also avoided sounding like a run-of-the-mill Warped Tour act, fusing peppy pop punk with aspects of prog and indie for what ultimately comes across more like an exceptionally ill-tempered Pavement than anyone you’d see touring with Weezer or Blink-182. Anarchy, My Dear is one of the band’s strongest musical statements to date, thanks to its surfeit of catchy guitar leads and genuinely unpredictable song structures, though, as always, the band rocks at about half the intensity they’d need if they wanted to serve as anything more than a backing track for their cantankerous loose cannon of a singer.
Review Summary: And the shit rains down.In order to see why Say Anything's Anarchy, My Dear is such an unequivocal failure, we've got to look at what made ...Is A Real Boy such a fantastic album, given that the former is supposed to recapture some of the latter's glory. Real Boy was one of those rare albums that seemed like it could have never been created except under the exact circumstances in which it was. The music uncannily mirrored its creator, full of stop-start riffs and time signatures that changed schizophrenically, sounding paranoid, with all of its elements stuffed together almost randomly.
Sometimes you accidentally see someone else’s journal, the record of their unguarded and unedited private thoughts, and instead of being titillated, you’re just embarrassed. This is the effect that Say Anything stumbles upon during their fifth full-length, Anarchy, My Dear. Lead single “Burn a Miracle” opens with earnest hand claps and a chorus that asks rhetorically, “Do you really wanna stand stiff at attention?” Now, one could get behind that as an anthem for today’s youth, but then someone answers (“NO!”).
This review originally ran in AP 285. After struggling with 2009’s uneven self-titled release, Say Anything majordomo Max Bemis has abandoned major labels and hooked back up with Tim O’Heir, the producer behind SA’s high-water mark, …Is A Real Boy. The result, Anarchy, My Dear, isn’t as thrilling or fresh as Real Boy was eight years ago, but it’s still a nice return to form for one of contemporary emo’s most gifted, honest songwriters.