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Say Anything incites Anarchy with new album Anarchy, My Dear

By Kurt Retenauer
On March 22, 2012

  • Iron & Wine's new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, turns in Sam Beam's signature folk style for experimental electric and computerized sounds. AP Photo

The mention of anarchy nowadays incites images of splattered, overpriced Chuck Taylor's or graffiti along a bike trail. For Max Bemis, frontman of Say Anything, it's different. In a feature for Spinner, Bemis says, "Taking it easy and the act of not destroying myself and being full of false anger or self-loathing is the most anarchistic thing I can do." Bemis says he won't listen to Anti-Flag or start protests, but his band's new album Anarchy, My Dear, released March 13, is his "own brand of chaos."

Bemis on Anarchy is a very different person than the singer who wrote 2004's ...Is A Real Boy, an album that is also self-admittedly about "rebellion." Marrying Eisley singer Sherri DuPree, Bemis since converted to Christianity and, most notably, kicked his drug habits. His life changes influenced his music, and both seem more open ended. Rather than encouraging rebellion, Bemis and co. promote choice and freedom with Anarchy, My Dear.

From the opening track "Burn A Miracle," it's clear that Say Anything is attempting to return to their ...Is A Real Boy sound, with thick, fuzzy bass lines and soft soloing guitar over the verses.

The band is notorious for their unconventional song structures. Playing guitar riffs over verses, layering instruments as the song progresses, skipping the first chorus in favor of a second verse and getting to the chorus midway through the track are very common occurrences on SA releases.

"Night's Song" and "So Good," which feature Bemis's wife DuPree, take a detour from the punk vibe of Anarchy. They're both equally soft in delivery and have almost head-bop vibes. While "Night's Song" is heavily bass-led by Adam Siska, "So Good" is synthesizer- and piano-led, both of which contrast Bemis' raspy voice. The latter track explores a theme of love, as Bemis discusses his helplessness and how DuPree has helped him.

But it wouldn't be a Say Anything album without at least some brutally honesty lyrics. "Admit It (Again)" is a continuation of "Admit It!!!" from ...Is A Real Boy, and Bemis continues his criticism of pretentious people eight years later.

Bemis pours himself out in this track, singing, "I'm sure you're proud that you've usurped the popular kids table/Which means you've forfeited your dubious anti-cred by buying into your own inflated hype/And I don't define my enemies by the clothes they wear or the pretentious bands they like/ It's about how you seek to control minds, just to appease what you've always lacked!" Bemis's strong opinion of "posers" will resonate with fans and new listeners alike, since everyone knows at least one person who thinks they're better than everyone else. (And if you don't, you're probably that person.)

While a lot of the tracks expand upon the band's past material, "Peace Out" crosses into entirely new grounds. An all-acoustic ballad, the folk tune is a nice break from the self-defined "anarchy" of the album. Bells, mandolin and some subtle strings layer the track well. "Overbiter" also is a dancy, poppy ballad that would serve well as a second single with its dual male-female vocals, gentle pace and occasional ripping guitar.

Returning to their true form with "The Stephen Hawking," Bemis delves back into punk rock and crafts an almost eight-minute track, complete with a rollercoaster of varying emotions. The track moves from punk rock, to an atmospheric frenzy and mellows back out toward the end. Some may say unconventional, but it sums up exactly what Bemis hoped to attain with this album: his own version of anarchy.

Say Anything set out to redefine anarchy, and with this album succeeds in doing that, both lyrically and musically. There are so many different levels of anger, happiness and honesty that Anarchy, My Dear could only tell the story of one man and his internalized anarchy. The various styles of music don't cater to traditional structure, but rather, a personalized and individual structure. And that, after all, is what true anarchy is all about.


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