Say Anything’s new album “In Defense of the Genre” assumes the flagship position of album releases in its class this season. Frontman Max Bemis proves his prowess through vocal variety and shows his exceptional ability in an artful construction of lyrics that reflects the eccentric mind of a maniac. This time around the band thoroughly diversifies its sound, making the album stand out amongst its contemporaries in the genre. Through brilliant use of unconventional metaphors combined with shockingly direct statements, Bemis continues the epic of his frenzied life, as the story speaks of what has occurred since “.Is a Real Boy.” With a succession of prolific albums, Say Anything is continually building itself up higher than achievements passed.
Though in existence since 2001, the band made its popular entry onto the music scene in 2005 with their album “.Is a Real Boy.” The album included the singles “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” and “Alive with the Glory of Love,” the latter being featured during the sixth season finale of “Scrubs.”
The discrepancy between the two singles’ titles is furthered by their content. One is a semi-biographical illustration about Bemis’ grandparents during the Holocaust, the other about phone-sex. During their tenure as a band, Say Anything has since shown their competence among the genre’s front-runners, touring with bands such as Saves The Day, Dashboard Confessional, My Chemical Romance and Thrice.
Despite these accomplishments, or perhaps because of them, two of the band’s tours in 2005 were canceled due to Bemis’ continuous nervous breakdowns. Bemis hit his low point as he began to wander the streets of Brooklyn, illegitimately convinced that he was being constantly videotaped.
Eventually, he was found by his girlfriend, with no phone and no money, after becoming involved in a physical altercation with a stranger. This event prompted the 23-year-old singer/songwriter’s six-week institutionalization. Later Bemis writes in the song “This is .Ecstasy,” “The cameras follow me for miles/Born a slave in 1984.”
The album begins with a trifecta of exceptional songs. The first track, “Skinny Mean Man” is exemplary of an abusive and controlling relationship that many of us have seen in our friends at some point in our lives. The narrator, Bemis, plays the one who loves the abusee stating “If only you’d start breathing, I’d court you exclusively.” Bemis implies that her relationship with this ‘skinny, mean man’ is equivalent to death, and that he would date her if she were to break away from his breath-taking control.
The second track, “No Soul” captures the listener’s attention with heavy guitar tones, minor chord piano lines and a theme of disgust. The subsequent track, “That Is Why” adopts a showtune-esque, almost musical-sounding melody. It’s the typical “I’m over you” song, lyrically infused with profane alliteration worthy of its brandished parental advisory warning of strong language and sexual content.
Musically and lyrically, it seems as if diversity was one of the foremost goals of the band. Say Anything finds a way to capture the comfort of repetition while filtering out all the annoyances that come with such redundancy. The choruses of “I Used to Have a Heart” follow the same rhyme scheme, but share little word similarity: “I don’t want to be confused, I just want to find you/ All I want to kill is that which keeps me ill” compared to “I don’t want to be a slave, I just want to spend my days/Wandering through the haze, your voice to lead the way.”
Some songs on the album show that Bemis is as much a poet as he is a maniac. In the passionate narrative “We Killed It,” Bemis emotes: “And I dream, I dream, I dream./I saw the ocean envelop the sky /And blot out the sun on the day that we died/The former, the latter, and all in between…”
The gem of the album however is its first single, “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur.” An electronic sound complete with pulsing drum beats almost invites the listener to dance as if its something Paul Oakenfold composed. With such up-beat and catchy sounds, “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur” is on the same par as Gym Class Heroes’ “Clothes Off!”- a fast track to the MTV Video Awards.
To make this production even more grandiose, 16 of the albums 27 songs are embellished with vocalists from the ‘the genre.’ Singers like Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday, Chad Gilbert and Jordan Pundik from New Found Glory and Haylie Williams of Paramore are all recruited to make “In Defense of the Genre” the massive work that it is. Overall, 24 artists add their unique sounds, many representing their part in Bemis’s life in this remarkable concept album.
With such incredible eccentricities in a lyricist, it is no wonder why fans have come to be enthralled by Say Anything. The album leaves no one disappointed as all of the past madness of the band is recaptured in ninety minutes and two discs. Though darker overall than its predecessor, a myriad of fast, diverse and thought-provoking songs will leave the listener with a feeling of frantic renewal.
“In Defense of the Genre” is a proclamation of personal progression comprised of maniacal verses, diverse instrumentation, and careful composition.
Although Say Anything’s inherent unpredictability may make it difficult to see exactly where the band is going, their recent album assures fans and new listeners alike that they are moving in an ascending direction.
Lugino Petrone is a first-year student majoring in Political Science. He can be reached at LP652083@wcupa.edu.