Say Anything — “Anarchy, My Dear”

Say Anything - "Anarchy, My Dear"Hello Bemis, My Old Friend. I See You’ve Come to Sneer Again.
By Eric Webb

It took me a while to get used to Max Bemis’ voice. Because if anyone knows how to milk all the juice out of a snarl, it’s the Say Anything frontman. Before I learned to love a little rebellious streak, I resented the sneering sarcasm in all of the band’s songs. Then, I heard “Alive With the Glory of Love.” And “Shiksa (Girlfriend).” There’s passion and a tender heart in that sneer, which was the point of Say Anything that I was missing.

Anarchy, My Dear, in many ways, is an emblematic Say Anything LP. The treat in reviewing a band dear to your heart is that there’s ample perspective available. Bemis has said in interviews that this album is the band’s stab at a true punk album — the title telegraphs that a mile away. With a flag. But on this album, much like their 2009 self-titled cut, Say Anything seems to strive for a beautiful sound first and foremost. I have confidence that Bemis, drummer Coby Linder and the rest of the band know what a punk album sounds like, because the band behind “Belt” and “Admit It!!!” (more on that later) can craft anarchy without missing a headbang.

So, I am forced to conclude that this punk mission statement is more of a lofty, philosophical theme (because Bemis is coconuts about those kinds of things) than a love letter to the Sex Pistols. Or even Mark Hoppus. On Anarchy, My Dear, that punk rock bray is still there, but it’s wearing a velvet tuxedo; it’s a stack of dirty pictures painted in lush watercolors.

“Burn a Miracle” is a titanic pop-punker that belongs on an album titled “Anarchy, My Dear,” and it is a rightful first single. If every song sounded like this one, the album’s name wouldn’t have such dissonance. It’s full of violent words and a thesaurus worth of poetic turns of phrase. In many way, it sounds the most like a song off of … Is a Real Boy or In Defense of the Genre. It bears mention that the chorus sounds like Bemis is saying “Burn America” at points. It could be intentional. But, he could just be clenching his teeth so hard that his jaw is fracturing.

From there on out, Say Anything churns out a solid album of slightly twisted romantic sentiments that made me love them the first time I heard they had a love song set amid the Holocaust (the aforementioned classic “Alive With the Glory of Love”). The song “Say Anything,” a title they should have reserved for their self-titled album because it’s so meta, is a rousing, irreverent number that reminded me a bit of “Mara and Me,” but with more casual jokes about genocide.

“Night’s Song” name-drops Randy Newman, so it gets some points right away for that. With turns of phrase like “Under the sun god’s stare/I wince my eyes and blossom hives,” it’s clear that Say Anything will forever be a literary treat.

“So Good” is a sweet little tale, led by acoustic guitar, of one of Bemis’ degenerate “greasy chump” protagonists pining after a “conservatively dressed” lass who is, well, just So Good. It’s a clever Romeo & Juliet spin with political and religious references peppered throughout, and sounds a good deal like 2009’s “Eloise,” one of my favorite Say Anything songs. There’s even some plinking pianos and some puns. I like to imagine Bill Clinton singing this song to Laura Bush. Truly, this is the platonic ideal of a Say Anything song.

“Peace Out,” on the other hand, is an Irish insult-jig aimed at an awful ex-lover that’s a hoot. It’s an Adele song for the pop-punk devotee. As Bemis sings “I may be shy and not reply to your scathing review/but I’d rather subsist on venom rather than abstain with you,” and “You hug that pole like a firefighter falling in love,” you may find yourself feeling a little more mean-spirited than usual. Roll with it. Everyone needs an angry, folk-flavored, acoustic ditty once in awhile.

And, in the sequel that everyone wanted, Say Anything releases the metaphorical hounds for “Admit It Again,” a reprise of an earlier treatise on What Is Wrong With People. Like the original, “Admit It Again” is borderline rap, as Bemis systematically dismantles his object of contempt with the napalm of wit. The refrain is a melodic wailing of “Crap rains down.” That is as good a tone-setter as any I can give. Truly, this is the real winner on this album.

Instead of anarchy, Say Anything turned out a fan-pleaser. See, I look at this band as a security blanket of sorts. You can get older. You can get a job in a cubicle. You can pay taxes (or not). You can drive a sensible car and wear khakis. But when I listen to Say Anything, I expect to get that little thrill in my heart — you know the one. The pang of being younger. That’s what they’re here for, and I hope they never give it up for anything.

Eric’s Picks
(1) “Burn a Miracle”
(2) “Say Anything”
(4) “Admit It Again”
(5) “So Good”
(7) “Peace Out”

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About mattneric

We like music.
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8 Responses to Say Anything — “Anarchy, My Dear”

  1. Kyle says:

    I like this album a lot as well, Admit It Again is probably their best track on the past two albums.

    As for the anarchy, Max talks about how much he loves Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles pretty frequently, and it shows in his lyrics. Like Morrison, he tends to approach things from an odd, kind of paranoid perspective, which leads to a philosophical framework that’s kind of theatrical and inaccessible.

    I admire him trying to elevate his work, but I think his wit and perceptiveness shine a lot more when he’s not afraid to really wrestle with his emotions an insecurities in the almost base way that he does on songs like The Futile and Spay Me.

    Also, I love that he’s found Sherri and true love. (I actually have a song shop song about me telling him how happy I am for him). But I think his love songs also suffer when they are too sappy. The imagery in Cemetery is powerful and tragic, I can’t really say the same about So Good.

    I have opinions on Say Anything.

  2. I love Say Anything! I didn’t realize they were releasing a new one, so I’m definitely going to have to take a listen super soon. I’m excited to listen to it after reading this

  3. TMatt says:

    There is a lot of Social D in this, an emo Social D. But I really like. Great rec.

  4. unitrapped says:

    “when I listen to Say Anything, I expect to get that little thrill in my heart — you know the one. The pang of being younger.” Just what I need!

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