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Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear Album Cover

Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear

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4.5
Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear
Record Label: Equal Vision Records
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
Max Bemis, like trying to explain the definition of “anarchy”, falls under many interpretations.

Some definitions paint an exalted picture of the Say Anything singer, dripping with the sins of his past and a flawless level of lyricism to express it all with. Some simply fall back on an image of how Max used to be, claiming he was at his best when Say Anything was still growing. Other definitions suggest, also like anarchy, that he has always belonged to 7th graders just discovering angst in middle class suburbia.

There’s enough evidence to find that the last three Say Anything records are great records and deserve their place as some of the most influential alternative music in recent memory. No introduction on this site is needed for Say Anything’s first major label release; all anyone has to do is type the acronym IARB and someone out there gets a half-chub while reminiscing about the early to mid-2000s, fondly known as “how great our scene used to be”. Their following two albums get mixed praise, but both still shine with enough of the band’s initial charm amidst the backlash. Most of said backlash came though from the insensitive fact that “old Max Bemis”, the soup-spilling, overheated wonder child of the first record, was the key ingredient for some people’s enjoyment of Say Anything. With the release of Anarchy, My Dear, the full formula of Say Anything’s worshipped sound has became abundantly clear in four distinct parts. Unfortunately, that clarity has come at the expense of Say Anything putting out their most middling, forgettable record yet.

The first part of Say Anything’s unstoppable charm is their lyricism.

For most Say Anything fans, we fell in love when Max announced his record would begin with a song of rebellion. For others, it began when we heard his stories about love during the Holocaust, paranoid odes to denounced Judaism at the hands of a new girlfriend, or the simple hatred of everyone. Whether you’re a lifetime detractor of Say Anything or a devoted fan, the storytelling and lyric work of Bemis is undeniably thought out and well executed. His angriest songs are so well done because they’re so intensely personal and self loathing. His happiest songs are also completely effective because of how unbridled and goofy they are in their joy. Within the first line of Anarchy, Max announces a bold proclamation: “I once courted a boy; he looked a lot like me but his eyelids were destroyed”. The song, “Burn A Miracle”, builds up its depiction of blog obsessed couples to a rallying call for the next generation to...well, I’m not sure. It almost seems like Max doesn’t know himself, the chorus vaguely asking, “Do you want it? Do you need it?” without answer. The heart of Anarchy’s songs are rooted in rebellion, but over what? Pretentiousness? Apathy? Music? It’s great to hear Max’s focus isn’t zooming in on his own neuroses, but the hyper-detailed storyteller has seemed to have lost a muse altogether.

The second part of their charm lies in their quirky individuality.

Out of the gate, Say Anything was born with a habit of changing tempos frequently, meshing emo with theater and swing music, and letting their musicianship be the second most bizarre element of their band behind their lead singer. They’re the band that made so many people believe a song about knowing a girl’s plans could be irresistibly romantic and a line like “when I touch myself, I am conjuring you” be somewhat endearing. Moments throughout Anarchy, My Dear briefly gleam with their uniquely weird charm, but the closest we get to a song full of that harmlessly eccentric charm is in “So Good”. The simple bar room tale of finding a girl looking well dressed in a world full of high skirts and low morals is very charming, but the chorus deflates the charm quickly by repeating the line, “You look so good tonight”, endlessly blurting it out like a bad middle school pickup line. Overall, the surprising song arrangements, bleeding heart declarations of love, and overall quirkiness are missing on Anarchy, leaving little but repetitive choruses and misguidedness.

The third part of Say Anything’s charm is their passions bleeding into their music.

Plenty of bands are quirky, downright weird, or somewhere in between. I’m well aware of that, but something sets Say Anything apart from just being “that emo band with the messed up songwriter”. I believe Is A Real Boy and In Defense of the Genre are so well received not only on the laurels of their lyricism and musicianship, but because of the persona built by the narrating Bemis. Songs like “Yellow Cat / Red Cat” and “This Is Fucking Ecstasy” shape his narrator as a lost man, but each album’s conclusion (“Admit It!!!” and “Plea”, respectively) show a man trying to find focus and clarity in the madness. Even Say Anything’s closing track, “Ahhh...Men”, begs for improvement even though much of the album shows a much happier, stable Bemis. He’s trying so hard to be happy and live his dream, which is one of the most relatable struggles everyone faces on this planet. Regrettably, no such conclusions can be found on Anarchy, as the album wraps with a wordy, yet vague ending in “The Stephen Hawking”.

The fourth and final part of Say Anything’s charm is their connection to the listener.

It was touched on several times, but few bands hit nerves quite like Say Anything does. In theory, popular music and lyrics by a once-drug addicted, conflicted, 20-something storyteller don’t go hand in hand very well. But the conveyance of basic situations like love, hate, confusion, pain, and triumph were ripe in Max’s hyper conscious words, propelling the band to the respected status they currently have. Naturally, the excitement builds when “Admit It Again”, a revisiting of one of the band’s most passioned and beloved songs, is on the track list of Anarchy. Alas, the 1st verse begins with scolding, telling the pretentious listeners that they “were listening to my band in 2004, though you claim you were reared on The Stooges”. It comes off less righteous and more like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, barking at kids three times younger than him to get off his lawn. Anarchy’s lowest point, “Overbiter”, goes even further with his hate for the judgmental fans, casting each “sucker” who has wronged him to march to a pit of doom over a dance track that just barely avoids ripping off the beat of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. It’s understandable to be bitter over haters and bloggers, but the songs throws the hatred into unintended hilarity.

The whole of Anarchy, My Dear leaves more opinions than answers to the mysteries of Max Bemis, Say Anything, and their definition of anarchy. Songs like “Peace Out” have potential to be regarded as memorable Say Anything songs down the line, but most of what made Say Anything as a one-of-a-kind, self-narrating musical of intelligent alternative/emo has evaporated on Anarchy. It could be the confusing messages lying throughout the album. It could be that I’ve become the pretentious fan Max hates most. The only end I can come up with is that Say Anything represented the band I could put in my car’s CD player, drive through my town late at night to, and have a perfect soundtrack to my happiest and darkest times. That release seems to be gone on Anarchy, leaving Say Anything just as polarizing and more unexplainable than ever.

4.5/10
This review is a user submitted review from luvsickcatalyst. You can see all of luvsickcatalyst's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 33
05:07 PM on 03/14/12
#2
touchdownboi
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I don't exactly agree with this review, but it was still very well written. Good job!
05:32 PM on 03/14/12
#3
Corey Hoffy
I refuse to spend life on my knees
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Good review. I'm still really trying to force myself to like this, but I'm just not finding too much to like. This comes from someone who considers IARB to be one of the best albums of all time. Maybe it will grow on me though.
06:33 PM on 03/14/12
#4
JordanKTM
Right Back At It Again
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The album cover looks exactly like Stray From The Path - Make Your Own History cover.
07:23 PM on 03/14/12
#5
HanLuk
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Well written review and all, but I HIGHLY disagree. This is quite a good album, no IARB, but still pretty good.
08:48 PM on 03/14/12
#6
thesinkingship
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Terrible review.
09:07 PM on 03/14/12
#7
Futura3001
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Totally agree. Im a HUGE fan of IARB and IDOTG and self titled cd, but this cd was bad.
10:56 PM on 03/14/12
#8
luvsickcatalyst
wander eyes, ocean high.
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If I may ask, what made the review bad for you?

Well written review and all, but I HIGHLY disagree. This is quite a good album, no IARB, but still pretty good.
Believe it or not, this is the kind of response I was hoping for. I understand this is a very pro-Say Anything community, which I'm still 100% behind regardless of my feelings for this album. As a result, I tried to write a review/article (It's more article length, I know) that didn't just show my disappointment for this record, but why I put Say Anything at such a high expectation level in the first place. For a lot of bands out there, this would be a good record, but everything that made Say Anything a standout, game-changing band is either significantly weakened or gone from this record. It baffles me even more because I find the two Painful Splits albums are miles better than this, even in their Garageband quality production.

Anyway, without waxing on any further, thanks for a differing opinion.
05:28 AM on 03/15/12
#9
HanLuk
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If I may ask, what made the review bad for you?


Believe it or not, this is the kind of response I was hoping for. I understand this is a very pro-Say Anything community, which I'm still 100% behind regardless of my feelings for this album. As a result, I tried to write a review/article (It's more article length, I know) that didn't just show my disappointment for this record, but why I put Say Anything at such a high expectation level in the first place. For a lot of bands out there, this would be a good record, but everything that made Say Anything a standout, game-changing band is either significantly weakened or gone from this record. It baffles me even more because I find the two Painful Splits albums are miles better than this, even in their Garageband quality production.

Anyway, without waxing on any further, thanks for a differing opinion.
I agree there are a lot of holes in this album, and I think the reason why there will never be an album like IARB is because there were no cracks in that album. The musicianship and the lyrics are still there no doubt, but this is not a memorable album. In that case, you are 100% right, however the talent the band has is still evident in this album.
07:09 AM on 03/15/12
thesinkingship
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If I may ask, what made the review bad for you?

The analysis and overall score. While I respect that people are going to have varying opinions on what the score for any album should get, I find this one to be objectively too low.
09:01 AM on 03/15/12
luvsickcatalyst
wander eyes, ocean high.
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The analysis and overall score. While I respect that people are going to have varying opinions on what the score for any album should get, I find this one to be objectively too low.
I respect that completely. I was really obsessing and changing the score before I came to my final conclusion, so I feel like the analysis should speak more than the score. At first, I felt like since it was Say Anything, the production was well done, and everything they've done until now has been great, I should've give it 65-70% at least. But the more I played it around friends that were Say Anything fans and musician friends that have appreciated similar music, the more I found the unanimous opinion being that this is a really bland record as a whole and a huge low for Say Anything. The score is harsh, but it speaks to the fact that SA wrote a really middle of the road, weak record that I probably won't listen to very often, which is huge for me.
06:46 PM on 03/15/12
ladedadada
The first rule of flying is love.
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This review is 100% unadulterated bullshit, solid 9/10
08:12 AM on 03/17/12
scott!athedisco
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One of the best reviews I've seen on this site. Loved how you organized it well, highlighting the strengths of Say Anything, and then the many ways this record fails to play to those strengths. I find this review to be much more honest and critical than the staff one.
09:21 AM on 03/17/12
Silent7
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Loved the review and agree with it 100%. I'm not really searching for another IARB, as I loved the hell out of Self-Titled, but I think that all the comparisons between Anarchy and IARB before the album came out, really made me think this album was going to be much different then it ended up being. I think the biggest downfall is that the choruses are sooo repetitive that I just don't feel that they are very memorable. On top of that, the parts of the songs that have crazy transitions come off to me as really forced. It's as if Max knew right here that he should put in some transition to stop the song from just becoming verse/chorus/verse but they all seem really abrupt to me.

I'm hoping this album grows on me as I've forced myself to listen to it probably 6 times now all the way through but only a few songs are really sinking in for me. At the moment, I definitely think this is the worst release yet and I would pick Self-Titled (and obviously IARB and IDOTG) over this any day of the week.
10:49 AM on 03/17/12
ChickiManifesto
The Worker Bee
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The album is good so i disagree. Yeah its no is a real boy but you expect them to put that shit out on every album your just being naive people grow up! The album may not be as solid as is a real boy but its still well written. I know how everyone wanted this to be IARB part 2 but its more of In defense then anything. Just my opinion.

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