CD Review: Say Anything — Anarchy, My Dear; Playing Black Cat, April 17

Say Anything
Anarchy, My Dear
Equal Vision Records

By Al Kaufman

First things first, these guys are nothing like the John Cusack movie. They are not going to play Peter Gabriel through their boom boxes up to their girlfriend’s window. No, their love songs have more of a Sid and Nancy feel to them. On the cut, “Say Anything,” Maxim Bemis spits out tortures he would go through for his girl: “I’d throw up every morning, pull my nails out, take a wrench to all my teeth.” Damned if that doesn’t make a girl feel special.

Say Anything is a sort of indie-rock band that has put together its first attempt at real punk on this, their fourth release.They’ve dabbled in pop, hard rock, and even some glam-pop in the past, but it feels like this is what they were made to do. The self-deprecating Bemis seethes with anger throughout the album. On “Burn a Miracle,” he spits venom at a boy who would rather beat off online rather than be with his living and breathing girlfriend, then takes aim at the electronica band, Stereohead, for sticking around longer than they should have done. Bemis’ message is clear: Live in the now. Experience life.

But he certainly does not enjoy it. Bemis has more pent up aggression than Lewis Black and Denis Leary combined. Here’s some choice words he has for a (hopefully ex-) girlfriend on “The Stephen Hawking”: “You’re Jesus growing fat off of Roman gold/Moses making up the commandments told/Allah strapped tight to a stolen nuke/Or Elvis in a pool of his royal puke.” It’s just Bemis’ colorful way of calling her a phony.

Bemis hates phonies. He spews bile at some big time poser on “Admit It Again”: “You were listening to my band in 2004/Though you claim you were reared by the Stooges/Your entire facade is a line that you feed to anorexic actresses/Who would have laughed at your jacked up Navajo haircut/Less than a decade ago.”

The music is often as in your face as the lyrics. It’s loud, fast and energetic, but you can hear the glam-guitar in “Night’s Song,” “Overbiter” offers a synth-infuses dance-pop rhythm, and the sweet hammered dulcimer juxtaposes well with yet more angry break-up lyrics on “Peace Out.” But at times it all seems a bit formulaic, like the band still keeps one eye toward pop stardom. They self-bleep themselves and say “You son of a (grunt)” to ensure radio play and mom approval, and producer Tim O’Heir (Sebadoh, All-American Rejects) polishes up their sound until it sparkles. Bemis and the boys may not be the hypocrites they sing about, but they walk a fine line.

Say Anything play Black Cat in DC with Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, Fake Problems, and Tallhart on Tuesday, April 17.

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