Say Anything – Say Anything
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Record Label: RCA
Oh, Max Bemis. Say Anything has a case of the Taking Back Sundays, where they will never outdo their previous work. Regardless, after a double disc album full of filler and too many awkward moments, Say Anything's self-titled fourth album is a step in the right direction. It's more concise, pointed and cohesive, but where it suffers is in its front man. Don't get me wrong; I highly respect Max Bemis but sometimes it seems as if he is trying too hard to be himself, and what results is a CD full of really good songs with some really bad songs.
The production throughout is polished and fans of ...Is A Real Boy may find themselves wondering where the rough-around-the-edges aggression of Say Anything's previous work has gone. The guitar work is intricate and loud and is exemplified on tracks like "Mara and Me" but still retains its pop stylings. Max's voice has found its stride and it really shines throughout. The addition of organs, strings, and back-up vocals push some songs farther than Max alone would be capable of attaining.
"Fed to Death" opens the album, and the emotion pouring out of Max soars, and it kills me that it is followed by the albums first single, "Hate Everyone." I'm sorry Max, but this song is cheap. "I hate everyone" is too easy as a lyric, and we all know you can write better. So much of this song is overdone and seems ingenuine. Lines like "my ex-girlfriend though she's feminine" seem like futile attempts to follow slant rhyme schemes rather than writing with the poignancy we have come to expect. I just want to shake Max and tell him "I get it, let's move on" when he yells "the pills I ate for breakfast" and the whole song leaves a bad taste in my mouth. "Do Better" follows, and the entire first verse is cringe-inducing but it is saved by the way Max delivers the chorus.
From here, the album picks up. "Less Cute" is a wonderfully written song, and the line, "He's like a Wal-Mart version of you," doesn't sound forced or awkward; it sounds like Say Anything. "Eloise" follows, and again, the lyrics feel genuine, and there are glimmers of the old Say Anything. "Mara and Me" has a nice touch, as Max interrupts the music with a spoken line about not writing the same song over and over again, and I almost believe it. I'm a little confused with the attack on Kings of Leon, but the song still works. Unfortunately, the next song, "Crush'd" is frustrating. For a "love song" or Say Anything's version of a love song, it seems unable to ride the line between awkward and cute and mostly falls into the former. The end of the song flops when Max sings "Cause one time, beneath the sky, outside my new york pigsty I saw a vision of you and I! Haha!" The line is entirely unnecessary and, to me, it seems as if Max ran out of things to say, so he throws in a "Haha" for good measure. Any weight the song could have carried is killed as Max ends the song with "Did it hurt, did it hurt when you fell from Heaven girl."
"Cemetery" picks up where "Mara and Me" left off, and the addition of Sherri Dupree's vocals help to make it the love ballad that "Crush'd" was supposed to be. Again, unfortunately, the CD is interrupted by the deplorable "Property." It might be written in jest but it is probably the most socially irresponsible song I have ever heard, and I shudder to think about the legions of tween girls, who have leeched onto Say Anything's career, identifying with the song. The album ends with "Ahhh... Men" and it echoes all of the good interspersed between the bad throughout the CD, and as the song crescendos, it is almost enough to make me forget about "Property" and "Hate Everyone."
Overall, the album is a step in the right direction. When Max is not trying too hard to be tongue-in-cheek for the sake of being tongue-in-cheek, the lyrics seem genuine while still retaining the awkwardness that defines much of Say Anything. I say this because I honestly do love this band and have the utmost respect for Max Bemis, but "you could do better" and I want to see it.
Good review. I can't say I entirely agree with you...but 'Hate Everyone' and 'Property' are hands-down the worst songs. I mean, Property is REALLY bad. May I ask why you gave it a reviewer tilt of only 0.25? Also, I like the RIYL. I just submitted a review of this and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to say for that box. Wouldn't that say something about the creativity of the album?
you keep saying how this is a step in the right direction and you compliment a few songs....about half of them if not more. so how can you justify such a low reviewer tilt? its like you didnt want to admit this deserved a high score, but you couldnt justify putting any other category lower, so you did that to lower the overall rating.