Critical Voices: Say Anything, Anarchy, My Dear

March 15, 2012

Of Anarchy, My Dear, Say Anything’s first release in three years, front man Max Bemis said that the band has moved past its days of writing “petty songs about hating people” and found new stability and maturity. Like many of us, Say Anything has graduated from its early-aughts anxiety, but Anarchy retains the band’s awkward, hyper-personal character to create a balanced, introspective album.

Album opener “Burn a Miracle,” acts as a classic anti-government punk anthem, reasserting the band’s irreverence and establishing the anarchist theme of the rest of the work. The chorus barely conceals the lyrics “burn America” through the singer’s guttural vocals. Although more contrived than the rest of the album, the song contains some outlandish, yet apt, metaphors, attesting to Bemis’s strength in channeling his eccentricities into his songwriting.

The band’s autobiographical tendencies only come out on the second track, entitled “Say Anything,” in which Bemis declares that he would prefer genocide to the thought of losing his wife, Eisley’s Sherri Dupree-Bemis. The track is saved from its overly sentimental subject matter by Bemis’s characteristically awkward turns of phrase: “I’d throw up every morning, pull my nails out, take a wrench to all my teeth / To put a ring upon your digit, have you fidget in your bed with me.” While 0ther tracks may not be as successful in combing Bemis’s idiosyncrasies into love ballads, the delicate “So Good” reasserts Bemis’s affection for his wife through pop-culture-infused lyrics.

Absent from the record is the pissy brand of rage which made Say Anything popular among preteens, save the throwback “Admit it Again,” the band’s renewed tirade against urban, hipster snobbery. Filled with highly personal rants against pretentiousness—“Don’t want to hear about how the latest Rihanna single is a post-modern masterpiece”—the track initially strikes an angry, whiney tone, but transitions to a reserved sound that is more consistent with the rest of the album.

Say Anything’s early releases were notable for their angst and intensely personal subject matter. And while Max Bemis might have moved past his days of drug use and mental illness, Anarchy, My Dear is the musician’s newest effort to channel his odd personality into strangely endearing music.

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Connor Jones
Connor Jones is the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Voice. Before that, he edited its blog, Vox Populi and the features section. He was a double major in mathematics and economics and is from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at cjones@georgetownvoice.com.


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