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Say Anything - Hebrews Album Cover

Say Anything - Hebrews

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8.0
Say Anything-Hebrews
Record Label: Equal Vision Records
Release Date: June 10, 2014
You’ll have to forgive me if I gush; I’m a bit new to this whole “music journalist” thing.

By “new,” I mean I have been writing reviews and interviewing up-and-coming artists for about two years now. Two years of experience have gotten me to where I am today, but upon the release of Hebrews and the end of my first year in college, I came to the realization that it’s been two years without being able to take part in the ‘here and now’ promotion of any record from my favorite band of all-time, Say Anything. For two years, I’ve shared stories about magnum opus …Is a Real Boy changing my musical palette forever, opinions about the band’s self-titled album actually being their weakest output to date as well as its universally-dismissed follow-up, Anarchy, My Dear, being severely underrated. Finally, as I find myself writing about Max Bemis’ fifth release under the moniker, I can ultimately say I’m happy that the record I’m writing about is Hebrews. Truth be told, Hebrews is the best (and most ambitious) Say Anything record since In Defense of the Genre.

Let’s take a second to start with the singles. Admittedly, this site's general consensus (as well as my own) was cautious at best regarding all three. “Six, Six, Six” was the song released with the album’s artwork and press release, and therefore it was the first time the band’s fanbase heard about the album being completely orchestral and devoid of guitars (but far from the last time they debated the fact). “Six, Six, Six” finds itself representative of Hebrews as a whole mostly because it builds itself upon a healthy combination of the strongest aspects from Say Anything’s past three LP’s: the guest vocalists of IDOTG, the inclusion of electronics and production value of Say Anything, and the return-to-form songwriting style of Anarchy, My Dear. While its chorus may be one of the album’s weaker moments, that all changes when Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra takes over for an unexpected bridge (disguised under a pleasant vocal distortion reminiscent of Monster of Folk’s “Dear God”). The song is returned to Bemis, but no sooner is his final line (“All I want/to dethrone God/so I can be crucified”) repeated and screamed by Balance and Composure frontman Jon Simmons, bringing the track to a sweeping close. As stand-alones, something about the song felt out of place, but in context, “Six, Six, Six” fits almost perfectly amongst the rest of Hebrews.

Many will find “Judas Decapitation” to be the song they wanted “Admit It Again” to be; Bemis’ second verse in particular taking center stage as he quips “I hate that dude now that he’s married/He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri/That’s not apropos, he’s not the wretch we know/Cut his family up so we can feed them to the front row!” before making a clever slight towards the record he is associated with most. Vocally, the frontman may not sound as well as he used to, but lyrically and sonically, Hebrews is a surprisingly aggressive and reactionary album that plays somewhere between what fans have wanted the band to be and Bemis making the conscious decision to move forward from those expectations. The album’s title track suffers from some questionable lyrics, but its chorus is one of the band’s strongest in years, and it’s…err…cultural bridge (featuring a spot from the Front Bottoms’ Brian Sella) is one of the most over-the-top, outrageous and awesome moments in Say Anything history. It serves as a reminder of the ridiculous quirks that made us fall in love with them to begin with.

How does the rest of the record hold up? For starters, “John McClane” seems to be the theatrical opening cut fans have been waiting for. Upbeat keys introduce a wasted and worn-out Bemis as a “tiny man, chubby man, trembling, scruffy, lazy man…in the nude inhaling ice cream and talking to my dogs”. Chris Conely’s recognizable harmonizing acts as a preview to the song’s “Two Tongues plus one” ending, featuring gang vocals from himself, Bemis, and none other than Matt Pryor of the Get Up Kids. “Kall Me Kubrick” is the scathing standout fans have been craving for years, showcasing notably better key/string arrangements and Bemis-isms (yes, I’m making this a thing if it isn’t already) that border both the absurd and the absurdly personal (“This all makes me feel like I’ve had a smidgen too much tequila/You’re really not supposed to chase poison with four full-on Red Bulls/And I’ve never done crystal meth, but I imagine this is what it feels like/oh my God, I’m gonna flip out/oh my God, am I gonna choke and die before I even meet my daughter?”). This will also forever go down as the song in which Bemis spends an entire breakdown screaming about swastikas (or “swasti-KA’s,” as you’re sure to remember them). However, the insanity expressed here is minuscule compared to borderline-hardcore take, “Boyd,” an open invitation to all future boys who may date Bemis and Dupree’s daughter (punctuated by the grin-inducing sentiment of “So you’d better have her home by 11:30”).

The album’s B-side is admittedly a grower; “Push” takes its time to resonate but ultimately finds itself among the best in Say Anything’s catalog (and mewithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss has quite possibly one of the greatest guest spots our musical community has seen in some time). Other songs (“The Shape of Love to Come,” “A Look”) find themselves somewhere between enjoyable and forgettable, being nowhere as bad as the band’s worst but failing to reach the heights of the rest of the album (even with the normally welcomed help of wife/Eisley member Sherri Dupree-Bemis and Braid’s legendary Bob Nanna). “My Greatest Fear is Splendid” is the only rotten pick of the bunch, drunkenly stumbling over the line that separates “quirky” from “annoying” by boasting lines about Sherri running away with Johnny Depp and strings that find themselves far too bouncy for the average listener’s tastes (not too mention Hebrews’ weakest guest spot, a disappointing bridge from Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die). And then there’s “Lost My Touch;" some will love it, some will despise it, and others (like myself) will perhaps never understand what in the self-referential fuck they just listened too, but at least Touche Amore fans will have nothing to complain about.

At long last, the weight of the record falls on “Nibble Nibble,” a song as uncomfortable as it is addictive. The reason behind the anticipation is first simply due to the band’s history of fan-favorite closers, but secondly because it features Tom Delonge, a man loved for the part he played in Blink-182 (and slightly less as the brainchild of Angles and Airwaves) as well as notoriously hated by me. Nonetheless, Delonge’s signature (read: nasally) backups suit Bemis’ recognizable snarl well, and once the song explodes into something utterly and entirely Say Anything, it easily takes its place behind “Admit It!!!” as one of the band’s best end pieces yet.

Hebrews is not an album that will change minds, nor is it meant to be. Sherri Dupree-Bemis is featured throughout, an irrelevant factor fans seem to complain about when, while the rest of Say Anything is absent, she adds an extra dimension to each song she’s featured on as a practical unofficial member. Those who feel Bemis has “lost his touch at crafting Say Anything songs” will find anything and everything to hate about this record, about as much as other long-time fans will find moments to fall in love with. Love it or hate it, however, no one can deny that this exact division of fanbase and polarization of listeners is what perhaps proves that it's the most genuine record of Bemis’ career to date. This is Hebrews, and with the pressure of approval finally lifted from Bemis’ shoulders, it seems to be a right step in the direction Say Anything’s future, as well.

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This review is a user submitted review from Vance Mook. You can see all of Vance Mook's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 24
01:32 PM on 06/16/14
#2
Anthony Sorendino
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What a review!
06:23 PM on 06/16/14
#3
FTank
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Thought this album was terrible but great review
08:35 PM on 06/16/14
#4
Vance Mook
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Thanks man! It was just inspired because I was finally able to analyze something from my favorite band. I know Zac thought it was one of my best to date- glad to hear others think so too!
08:35 PM on 06/16/14
#5
Vance Mook
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Thought this album was terrible but great review
Hey man, to each their own haha thanks for reading!
11:53 PM on 06/17/14
#6
Ye Olde Gangsta
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Awesome review, Mook! I think I may have seen this on Sputnik? Or somewhere else? In any case, you're a seriously talented writer. It all flows so smoothly, and everything is totally comprehensible without sacrificing eloquence or wit.

"...before making a clever slight towards the record he is associated with most." Care to explain? This one was lost on me.
12:10 AM on 06/18/14
#7
FTank
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Awesome review, Mook! I think I may have seen this on Sputnik? Or somewhere else? In any case, you're a seriously talented writer. It all flows so smoothly, and everything is totally comprehensible without sacrificing eloquence or wit.

"...before making a clever slight towards the record he is associated with most." Care to explain? This one was lost on me.
pretty sure it's "dot dot dot real man"
01:11 AM on 06/18/14
#8
Vance Mook
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Awesome review, Mook! I think I may have seen this on Sputnik? Or somewhere else? In any case, you're a seriously talented writer. It all flows so smoothly, and everything is totally comprehensible without sacrificing eloquence or wit.

"...before making a clever slight towards the record he is associated with most." Care to explain? This one was lost on me.
Thanks for reading! Fastest Kid in School was where it was originally posted, the site I'm running along with Zac Djamoos. I sincerely appreciate it; there's really something cathartic about being able to relay your detailed opinion about something you feel so strongly about. More than anything, I'm just trying to put my writing out there.

FTank is right; I believe the lyric is, "Be 19 with a joint in hand/Never change the band/Never ever be a dot dot dot Real Man," in response to fans who want him to create ...Is a Real Boy Pt. II
07:42 AM on 06/18/14
#9
Ye Olde Gangsta
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pretty sure it's "dot dot dot real man"

Thanks for reading! Fastest Kid in School was where it was originally posted, the site I'm running along with Zac Djamoos. I sincerely appreciate it; there's really something cathartic about being able to relay your detailed opinion about something you feel so strongly about. More than anything, I'm just trying to put my writing out there.

FTank is right; I believe the lyric is, "Be 19 with a joint in hand/Never change the band/Never ever be a dot dot dot Real Man," in response to fans who want him to create ...Is a Real Boy Pt. II

Oh, yeah, coincidentally that's a line I've been meaning to ask about, too. I see people calling out the "dot dot dot real man" as being good, but I don't understand the "dot dot dot"? Is that a reference to something I've forgotten?
07:52 AM on 06/18/14
Vance Mook
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Oh, yeah, coincidentally that's a line I've been meaning to ask about, too. I see people calling out the "dot dot dot real man" as being good, but I don't understand the "dot dot dot"? Is that a reference to something I've forgotten?
Haha "dot dot dot" is the spoken version of an ellipses (...), get it?

"dot dot dot Real Man" = ... Real Boy? In context, meaning people don't want him to grow away from ...Is a Real Boy tendencies/mentality.
08:20 AM on 06/18/14
Ye Olde Gangsta
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Haha "dot dot dot" is the spoken version of an ellipses (...), get it?

"dot dot dot Real Man" = ... Real Boy? In context, meaning people don't want him to grow away from ...Is a Real Boy tendencies/mentality.
OH. the ellipsis from the album title. wow. i get it now. and real MAN vs. real BOY. i'm silly. that really is pretty clever though.
09:58 PM on 06/18/14
panicbxmb
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Excellent review...but I'm shocked to see the dislike towards "My Greatest Fear..."

That song is one of my favorites. Almost exclusively because of how badass I think Keith's part sounds. I love the song on the whole, but I reeeeally dig that part.
09:32 AM on 06/19/14
jorbjorb
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this album is sweet
09:33 AM on 06/19/14
scott!athedisco
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Great review! And spot on. Not only is the album polarizing, but for me personally, every song is. there are moments that I love in every song, and then parts I just can't stand (IE 'kall me Kubrick' is amazing, until the swastiKAs. 'My greatest fear' starts out vocally and lyrically pretty painful, but then I enjoy the hell out of the rest of it once the tempo picks up. 'Push' is pretty boring but the bridge by Aaron Weiss is incredible. And so on and so on for every song.)
09:38 AM on 06/19/14
texan4lif281
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Good review, haven't been feeling this album yet, maybe a couple more listens and it'll grow on me.

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