Thursday, March 22, 2012

Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear - Review

When looking at a title as bold and affirming as "Anarchy, My Dear", it's natural to imagine that the album is brash, raw, uninhibited, and most importantly, new. You wouldn't think that it's a mish-mash of all other Say Anything albums that come before it, but that's exactly what it is; it's an amalgamation of Max Bemis's works, all rolled up into one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead me to the biggest problem I have with the record: it's misleading. When I first read Max's Twitter about how it's a brand new sound and raw classic punk, I was excited. But that's not really what the album turned out to be, and I think that's the first thing you have to accept.

For an album about anarchy, it's really not that daring. It does have its share of angry 'against the world' kind of songs such as "Burn a Miracle" and "Admit It Again", but it follows Say Anything's new trend of a more mature and mellowed Max Bemis. He does attempt to recapture the fire he had an older albums with the previous songs, but that's not really who he is anymore. He's married, he's healthy, and most importantly, he's happy. Which does tend to make his shouting ring a little hollow at times. His ...Is a Real Boy days are long gone, and he has since moved on from his bad relationships and controlled his bipolar disorder. What does he have to be so mad about?

If you can look past that, however, the actual album itself is quite good. It basically uses the self-titled sound as a building block, infusing slight ...Is a Real Boy-esque anger with some experimental tracks harkening back to In Defense of the Genre (including the stellar hammered dulcimer-driven track "Peace Out") The production is pretty reigned back, removing the infectious harmonies and a lot of the guitar-driven sound that was seen on previous albums, but the stripped down nature works for the most part. Every song on the album is catchy, and in most cases mix great vocal hooks with the same trademark Bemis witticism seen on past albums. Some tracks, like the jaunty "Night's Song" and the seven minute anthem closer "The Stephen Hawking", rank among the best songs that the band has ever released. The only misstep is the song "So Good", being basically a retread of the much better and more satirical "Crush'd" from their self-titled album, but even that one is saved by its lyrics.

Overall, it's a very solid album that has some of Say Anything's best work on it. Is it ever so slightly disappointing? Perhaps. But you can't let your preconceived notions of an album hold you back from enjoying what it has to offer. And Bemis brings a lot to the table yet again, both musically and lyrically. My only question is: where does Say Anything go from here, now that they've combined all of their sounds? Personally I'd like to see a full-on concept album, but that's just me.


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