Through the over-hype and constant buzz swarming around Say Anything, I discovered an album that made me think; and with the lyrics and music combined, made me search a little deeper than what was on the surface. It is very easy to disregard something at first just because it doesn’t sound familiar or doesn’t really fit into a genre. It can easily happen if after the first listen, you walk away.
My initial thoughts were that I didn’t like it one bit. It was a different type of sound and different isn’t always a good thing. But after that first listen, I said to myself, what the heck was this album all about? I rummaged through the lyrics, reading line after line, and I started to listen to the album again, appreciating the unique approach to indie rock music. I then discovered that two people recorded this album, Max Bemis who provides the guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals and Coby Linder who conducts the drums and percussion. Slowly but surely, I was beginning to understand what this album was all about.
Musically, Say Anything is very difficult to describe without mentioning the vocals. The music is simply a background setting to the lyrical commentary. The vocals easily remind me of the early Nada Surf material; resembling someone standing in front of a podium preaching or lecturing rather than someone fronting a rock band. But with the music filled with guitars far away in the background and bass and drums leading the way, coupled with clever keyboard and piano work, this recipe definitely works and slowly grows on your ears. The commentary like vocals are also supported by group vocals which include Patrick Carrie and Robb MacLean of Limbeck and the ever likable, Blair Shehan of Knapsack and The Jealous Sound fame- they compliment the lead vocals extremely well.
The music of Say Anything would not be successful if it wasn’t for the philosophical lyrics of Bemis. After reading through the lyrics, my day of discoveries continued. It became clear to me that my interpretations of these lyrics are that they are delivered in a commentary like way because the lyrics are a social commentary of cries. To me, behind all the glamour that being in a successful band brings, it still comes with some baggage. Maybe even more with the lifestyle of new cities every night, driving hours in a van and finding a floor to sleep on, and Bemis would seem to be trying to echo this sentiment with his lyrics and his delivery of them. Throughout the album, he cries out on what is wrong with the world we live in and what bothers him about everyday life. It is almost as if he is conducting his very own fairy tale of sorts with rock music paving the way. Maybe I’m completely off in my interpretation of this peculiar, clever style of Say Anything, but the opening lines of the final track, “Admit It!!!” definitely reinforced my understanding of the band:
Despite your pseudo-bohemian appearance
That vaguely leftist doctrine of beliefs
You know nothing about art or sex
That you couldn’t read in any trendy New York underground fashion magazine
You are a vacuous soldier of the thrift store Gestapo
You adhere to a set of standards and tastes
That appear to be determined by an unseen panel of hipster judges (bullshit)
Giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to incoming and outgoing trends and styles of music and art
Go analog baby, you’re so post-modern
You’re diving face forward into a antiquated path
It’s disgusting, its offensive don’t stick your nose up at me”
…is a Real Boy definitely is an album that needs to grow on you. You have to use your imagination and your head a little bit to fully grasp what I believe is going on. For some, that might be asking too much and some simply might just not get it, but for those who do, lucky you.