You can always go back home, but nothing is exactly the same. Say Anything’s sixth studio album Anarchy, My Dear is the band’s first release on an indie since leader Max Bemis released the scene classic …Is A Real Boy in 2004. After achieving mild success with the two albums in between on RCA/Sony, Bemis and company find themselves back in the familiar company of a major indie label, this time being Equal Vision. They also enlisted the production services of Tim O’Heir, whom oversaw the IARB sessions, thus including a comfort level that may not have been present during 2009 self-titled release.
But just like when you return home after all those years at college, things are different. People change, environments shift, and you grow and mature as a person. This can be directly applied to Bemis, whom, since Is A Real Boy, has matured not only as a songwriter but as a person. He’s happily married to Sherri DuPree, drugs are out of his system, and his outlook on life has changed. Basically, everything doesn’t suck as much as it did when he was writing that life-changing album. After a while all the self-loathing can be quite the drag, and Bemis is more aware of this than ever.
Now that’s not to imply that the guy has mellowed out. The title of his band’s latest album displays an attitude anything but. IARB may have started with a song of rebellion, but Anarchy manifests that very spirit throughout. Not in that “stick it to the man!” vibe, but rather it contains eleven tracks that urge the listener to live their lives the way they want – forget the haters, forget the cynics and do what makes you happy. This attitude emerges immediately with opening track (and lead single) “Burn A Miracle,” a peppy, hand-clap laden anthem that features Bemis at his giddy best, frantically trying to keep pace with the dual guitar action throughout.
With its interesting guitar riffs and straight-ahead drumbeat, “Night’s Song” is another quirky rock song, while the luscious “So Good” is the kind of layered pop song that Bemis has gotten so good at perfecting (both tracks feature the two of three vocal cameos from Sherri DuPree-Bemis).
Bemis also continues to show off his unique way with words, as he takes on genocide, bullets to the kneecap, and more to prove his loyalty in the infectious self-titled rocker “Say Anything.” But what has been the chatter amongst message boards is “Admit It Again!” the sequel to everyone’s favorite song from …Is Real Boy, “Admit It!!!” Full of driving fury, Bemis once again rants against those who think they are above everyone else, though this time he focuses on the people who turned on his band after Say Anything didn’t produce …Is A Real Boy Part 2. Chances are if you hate this song, you’re most likely the subject matter.
Continuing the album’s theme is the bouncy synth-heavy “Sheep,” as Bemis emphatically states, “it’s my life and I’ll live it without you/it’s my song and it was never about you at all.” The folky, serene pace of “Peace Out” features Bemis ignoring the negativity that has been thrown his way (“Oh I’ll be fine/Sever this for all time/I’ll laugh it off when this ends”). Following that is a new sense of confidence on the vibrant “Overbiter,” as husband and wife exchange vocals over its incredibly dancy beat.
What’s admirable about Bemis and his band is that he is willing to try anything musically and you rarely hear any rehashed compositions. The title track is a sprawling six-minute love song to anarchy, while “The Stephen Hawking” is an ambitious seven and a half minute opus that will take you from the darkness into the light. Really, Bemis packs in four different transitions that vary from moody ambience to a pop-punk sneer. Say Anything always does it big on album closers, and this one is no exception.
It seems that some listeners have confused Say Anything’s message with Anarchy, My Dear, perhaps expecting some raging punk-heavy record in the same exact vein of …Is A Real Boy or even In Defense of the Genre. Rather, Anarchy, My Dear is a record that promises that anything could happen at anytime, and Bemis and company do their very best to shake up what has been expected from them as a band. This is a record for the freethinkers, those who rebel from what you’re supposed to do to be accepted as “in” or “hip,” – it’s about the rebellion within.