This review was written in 2004 and originally published on AbsolutePunk.net. It has been very minimally edited before being republished.
There is a subtle irony that those humble artists and songwriters who would consider themselves of average intellectual “musical” capacity are usually those who provide the most genius and musical evolutionary leaps in their work. Those forefathers (names such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon and Paul McCartney come to mind), were able to capture an attitude and honesty of a generation and its environmental surroundings, and bottle this into a musical vessel that will transcend the tests of time. Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their full and upright positions – a similar musical actualization may have just taken place right in front of our very eyes. The hyperbole found herein is in no way supposed to be taken as an act of “hype,” but instead should be construed as my emotions and thoughts as best as I can seem to construct them into words.
Much like those history vindicated musical prophets, it takes a culmination of sly wit and risk taking to step into a terrain not common place in the music industry. When formulas and hooks are more important than the art of making music, and telling the honest story of life, it takes, like nature, a mutant or variation to force an evolutionary transformation. Say Anything is unlike any band you have so far heard. Or at the very least they are unlike anything I have ever heard. Gruff vocals, gang chants, and blistering melody are common place. The sounds of an off strummed acoustic guitar and an out of place beat will drive you batty on first listen – but as you finally set in and accept your fate you will find the hidden genius in every line. Could this be the shape of music to come? With the fear of falling short of calling this band the second coming, I find it necessary to simply alleviate my personal feelings and try to elucidate the reasons to why this album could very well become the Deja Entendu of 2004 (this comparison should give many of our return readers a glimpse into my love for this album), or may one day be considered the soundtrack to an underground generation, and why my colorful descriptions and flawed metaphors are probably the antithesis of everything this album stands for.
And the record begins with a song of rebellion. It takes nine words to kick start the album into a consequential storyline of brooding angst, hate, love, sex, drugs, and life. It’s essential the listener be able to sit back and soak in every poignant line spit forth, and every pause for breath be realized. I think it will be interesting to see how major music publications see this album and whether their journalists will be able take in the music for what it is before passing it off. The album opener starts the foot taping, starts the head bobbing and you can’t help but want to sing along to every “whoa.” From the opening song it’s immediately apparent the control over the written and sung word this young man holds. It’s not going to be the first time social commentary is cleverly disguised and pushed through the listener’s speakers.
By the second song it is perceptible that the band has a grasp on crafting songs that do not follow a formula, or insult the listener by maintaining a hold on one particular style or sound. As lyrics are sung with such lines as, “she took pity on me, horizontally, but most likely because of my band,” the brutal honesty bleeds through. It’s nothing like you would expect to hear, it’s the brash intelligence of Bright Eyes combined with a deceptively rock and roll / blues soul. Who in their right mind would have the gall and brilliance to say something like, “and she said I can’t get laid in this town without these pointy fucking shoes..” it’s simply something regular artists don’t come up with; it takes a special breed.
“The Writhing South” brings forth thoughts of Kerouac and how his words may have sounded to music as if On the Road could be translated to song. Is this supercilious commentary? No, I mean every word.
The rest of the album continues from here. Combining, weaving, and intertwining all of the above aspects into every song. Some stand outs are:
“Yellow Cat / Red Cat” and its pounding bass drum beat united with an adroit technique of using words to paint a salient portrait of modern society, it will surly drive the listener to salivate with each line.
“Futile” contains honesty and witty satire with words like, “eat, sleep, fuck and flee – 4 words, that’s me,” and “What do the old people teach you but how to die? What do your hissy fits teach you except how to cry? Cry, pussy, cry.” I expect some of the words to be taken in the wrong context by some, and the meaning completely lost on others.
“An Orgy of Critics” is a pure incarnation of rock and roll unlike anything I’m sure you have experienced before.
“Molly” contains a chorus and handclaps (I am such a sucker for handclaps) that will ingrain themselves permanently into your brain. Not since Jenny (867-5309) has a girl’s name been so perfectly immortalized in the lyrics of a song.
“Chia, Like It Grows” made me (again) envious of the band’s debut mastery with an opening line of, “I’ve watched you all succeed with the highest marks in greed. And my teeth cut names into their ivory membranes…”
“I Want To Know Your Plans” swirls the obligatory acoustic ballad with the pain of knowing the one you love is leaving, and how do you deal with that certainty? I have been at both ends of these lines, and nothing has ever come close to placing my thoughts into lyrics the way this song does. Try not to feel the ache, I dare you.
The album ends with “Admit It” which I guarantee you will go down as one of the most potent commentaries on our, or the intellectual, or the hipster, or the latte sipping pseudo-hippy scene in recent history. This song alone proves just how Max’s voice may very well become the timeless entity of our lives.
You know nothing about art or sex that you couldn’t read in any trendy New York underground fashion magazine. Prototypical non-conformist … 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 — Oh we’re not worthy when you walk by a group of quote unquote “normal” people. You chuckle to yourself patting yourself on the back as you scoff with the same superiority complex shared by the high school jocks who made your life a living hell, and it makes you a slave to the “competitive capitalist dogma” you spend every moment of your waking life bitching about.
If you sit there and read those last lines and go, “holy shit, that was amazing” this album will become your favorite record of all time. If you said, “that was kind of cool,” you’ll dig the melodies and beats and this album will grow on you with every listen. If you said, “what, I don’t fucking get it …” or “that was lame” then you will probably like the music at face value only. The truth is with every listen I find another double meaning for a lyric, another hidden lampoon on life, and another reason why I love this album. The most engaging thought of all however is trying to decipher exactly what meanings are behind every song. Sardonic voices may preach the answer in the very lines of the songs we analyze, with Twain-like satire and Swift-like wit.
Well let me tell you this, I am shamelessly self-involved. I spend hours in front of the mirror, making my hair elegantly disheveled. I worry about how this album will sell because I believe that it will determine the amount of sex I will have in the future. Cause I’m proud of my life and the things that I have done, proud of myself and the loner I’ve become. You’re free to whine, it will not get you far – I do just fine, my car and my guitar.