Album Review: Anarchy, My Dear by Say Anything
Say Anything hits hard—with heavy guitars and pounding drums—but every so often they miss. Every album they’ve come out with has been better than the last (except for their daring double-disc sophomore slump). And now, after three quiet years, Say Anything’s screams out Anarchy, My Dear, their fifth full-length album.
If their older tunes and lyrics didn’t make you cringe [most memorably “I called her on the phone and she touched herself,” or the Holocaust love song featured on the TV series Scrubs, or my favorite: Shiksa (Girlfriend): “I’ve been walking erect since the moment we met”], then you should be able to bear Max Bemis scream “Burn a miracle! Burn America! Burn the dream!” in the opening track - because if you can— it rocks. However, by the end of the end of the album, Bemis’s gentler song of “Anarchy, my dear, the brazen and the queer. We bow before you” gets to be way too much to bear. Are there any sparkling moments between this wonderful beginning and horrid ending? Yes—not throughout, but here and there.
Say Anything, the second track, (yes, same as the band name, same as the last album’s name) keeps the punk going, for the sake of love. “Anything for you!” sings Bemis—including genocide and illness and loss of civil rights, he claims—and I’m not sure how much he’s joking. Maybe he isn’t sure either. After all, Max Bemis is still writing songs that tease poser hipsters, sequel-ing an old song from 2004, Admit it (“Go analog, baby! You’re so post-modern”), with track four: Admit It Again (“Don’t wanna hear about how the latest Rihanna single is a post-modern masterpiece—stop punishing me!). These tracks, along with poppier “Sheep” and acoustic “Peace Out,” will entertain with catchy melodies and provocative lyrics.
A couple other songs reintroduce electronic drums and keys that the band experimented with on their last album. The irony of the punk voice over the pop beats worked back then (Do Better, Crush’d), but this time it’s corny and much less fun and witty. Sherri Bemis (formerly Sherri Dupree of Eisley) makes a guest appearance on Overbiter and her voice is beautiful, but the rest of the experiments are failures. After Sherri’s voice seems to foreshadow a beautiful ending, the albums ends with arguably the three worst tracks of the album. Unfortunately, they are also some of the longest songs of the album, the final track nearing eight minutes.
Max Bemis has usually impressed me by being true to himself and unafraid to follow the philosophy behind the band name, that is, to say anything. He was ok with writing about being a Jew, becoming a Christian, making fun of his own fans and himself. With Anarchy, My Dear, he claims to intended to be “pretty subversive.” But if he’s describing the title track as a love song that sounds like “Aerosmith power ballad written about anarchy,” then I’ll be glad to read it—but I don’t know anyone who would want to listen to it.
The difference between this album and Say Anything’s previous albums can be summed up with these examples: Sherri’s backup vocal line went from “You’re in my body” (soul mates) to “I gotta have you” (bunk buddies); instead of naming the poser a “vacuous soldier of the thrift store Gestapo,” Max Bemis simply calls him a “lecherous douche”—hitting hard but a little less gracefully.