Have you ever wanted to hate an album only to fall head over heels in love with it? I have – multiple times. My most recent experience with this uncomfortable phenomenon was Say Anything’s self-titled album, released earlier this month.
Let me explain myself. I like Say Anything. I’ve been a fan for a few years. But the first time I heard Hate Everyone, this album’s leading single, I decided I was over them. I couldn’t handle vocalist Max Bemis’ wordy, rapid-fire, forced lyrical cleverness any longer. It was getting old and I wanted to listen to bands who took themselves seriously, not bands who wrote songs called Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too. So this album came out, and I ignored it for a few days.
And then I gave into my curiosity and gave it a spin.
And then I stuck my foot in my mouth.
Sure, Say Anything still finds Bemis spitting the same old wordy ramblings, but this time, they finally start to make a little bit of sense. When he pauses at the one-minute mark of Mara and Me and says plainly, “Wait a second. I can’t write the same damn song over and over again,” it’s finally apparent that he knows exactly what he’s doing with his music, and he’s not hiding it from anyone. “I can’t define myself through irony and self-deprecation; I can’t deny myself being alive through my alienation,” Bemis sings, chalking up another one-liner to his impressive collection. And from there on out, Say Anything’s songs sound a little more reasonable.
Bemis touches on his newly reformed spiritual beliefs throughout the album, most frankly on Fed to Death, Cemetery and the brilliantly titled Ahhh … Men. Also, he shares the vocal spotlight with drummer Coby Linder on a few songs for the first time, with unexpectedly pleasant results. The instrumentation is spot-on as always, this time finding the band dabbling in dance-floor antics (Do Better) and lively horn sections (Less Cute).
I guess the moral of my experience with Say Anything is that you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover – and I mean that both figuratively and literally, because this album’s actual cover happens to be pretty horrendous. Don’t expect anything drastically new or original from Say Anything’s self-titled album, but do expect to fall victim to Bemis’ unique style of songwriting and catchy choruses.