To know Say Anything’s music is to know Max Bemis’ life story.
The prolific frontman’s songwriting is always deeply personal, and the band’s discography chronicles every aspect of his life, positive and negative.
The sexually frustrated teenage Bemis emerged on “Baseball,” Say Anything’s debut; the sophomore “…Is A Real Boy” brought his struggles with drug addiction and bipolar disorder to the forefront; and the epic “In Defense of the Genre” portrayed a man in a state of recovery, reflection, anger and confusion. On the 2009 self-titled record, he had found solace in marriage and continued work in facing his demons.
The story is a roller coaster—a disconcerted boy turns too quickly into an angry, alienated man at the hands of mental illness and addiction, realizes and confronts his flaws in a flurry of catharsis, and as a result finds love and takes a break from being indignant.
With “Anarchy, My Dear,” Say Anything’s fifth full-length release, the saga continues.
Present here is a much more conscious Bemis—he’s surfaced from his previous haze, and while certainly happier, he’s still as angry as ever.
This is a major departure from the preceding self-titled record. There, Bemis was making light of his hardships in an attempt at moving on.
Here, Bemis has realized there’s still work to be done. He knows his demons are still lingering, but their presence doesn’t stop him from hating them. This is obvious on “Peace Out.” Accompanied by harps and acoustic guitars, Bemis sings a sardonic, biting ode to his former self.
“I’ll be fine,” he croons. “Sever this for all time/Laugh it off when this ends/You can
just go get high with all of your dumb friends.”
Along with this newfound animosity toward his own history, Bemis maintains his loathing of his critics.
On “Admit It Again,” the continuation of a hate letter to his detractors began on “…Is A Real Boy,” he berates the hipsters who are “fueled by a potent mixture of cocaine and latent insecurity, defining (their) own self-worth by the opinion of a stupid website with Satan as its figurehead.”
In addition to being once again filled with rage, Bemis is as in love on “Anarchy” as he was on the self-titled release. His infatuation with his wife, Sherri DuPree of indie rock quintet Eisley, is exhibited clearly on “So Good” and “Say Anything,” which could have been blared from John Cusack’s iconic boom box – were he an anarchist punk rocker.
Bemis’ writing provides tangible evidence of his increased happiness.
His words may be scathing in some places, but his voice sounds less tortured than on “…Is A Real Boy” and “In Defense of the Genre.” The instrumentation is less lighthearted and more stripped down than the self-titled record, but it’s cleaner and much more polished.
Many Say Anything fans claim the self-titled album was Say Anything’s worst because of its brighter sound and lack of emotional depth. They wanted an angrier Bemis, the anguished twenty-something heard on the band’s earlier work.
Their desires are sated on “Anarchy,” and it’s good to hear Bemis angry again.
But it’s also refreshing that he’s holding onto the positivity in his life. Someone who has been through as much as he has, and been completely open about it in his work, deserves to do so.