Sometimes you accidentally see someone else’s journal, the record of their unguarded and unedited private thoughts, and instead of being titillated, you’re just embarrassed. This is the effect that Say Anything stumbles upon during their fifth full-length, Anarchy, My Dear.
Lead single “Burn a Miracle” opens with earnest hand claps and a chorus that asks rhetorically, “Do you really wanna stand stiff at attention?” Now, one could get behind that as an anthem for today’s youth, but then someone answers (“NO!”). Every time. Really.
The rest of the album (a very long 48 minutes) is more of the same: an overproduced, non-ironic angst sandwich with a side of acidic lyrics. Someone has apparently made frontman Max Bemis mad on “Admit It Again”, resulting in him mocking that person’s haircut, calling him “you son of a— mmrrah!” (Ooh! Not the growl!). He also appears to question Say Anything’s own street cred: “You were listening to my band in 2004, though you claim you were reared on the Stooges!” This teen rage runs its course by 2:57, but then the song marches on in different form for another inexplicable minute.
There are a couple of good moments, though, including a title track that has a quiet(er) charm. Less silly than advertised, the lyrics continue to be sung with a slight sneer over a guiding snare. Later, “So Good” provides a welcome respite from the shouting. Closer “The Stephen Hawking”, a ballsy choice running nearly eight minutes, plays softly with Bemis almost whispering over a muted guitar: “If you’re the sun, I’m a black hole.”
Parts of Anarchy, My Dear feel so unedited that it gets a little embarrassing for the listener, but when Say Anything collects itself, it has something to say. Here’s to a strong-willed, impartial editor on its next effort.
Essential Track: “Anarchy, My Dear”