Ah, reissues, the latest trend to hit the scene, milking fans for all they're worth by holding out on extras until a later, undisclosed date, or packaging them with a re-release of the full-length in order to retail the price as high as possible. Such a red-eyed capitalistic approach for independent labels, who I suppose aren't necessarily partaking in the ethos of independent labels (not that J Records is independent in the actual business sense, but this rant needs placement somewhere). I see reissues only worth the price if the extras are worth buying alone at that price, or if a remixing/remastering/both job was drastically in need.
Say Anything esclated nearly to the top of the 21st century "scene" pile with 2004's ...Is a Real Boy, a "rock opera" orchestrated by the young, troubled Max Bemis who'd already written and recorded several now-out-of-print releases in years prior. Bemis' quirky, Piebald-influenced anthems gained a massive following in the months following the release (perhaps in assistance with gushing hype in a post-Music Mend[ing] Broken Hearts world), with the man eventually coming to be known as the emo Jesus Christ in some's eyes. From the band's popularity spurred a sudden signing to J Records, home of such like-minded peers as Kenny G and Jamie Foxx (and, well, on a serious note, Whitney Houston to an extent). What better way to kick it off than with a reissue of the celebrated album?
As a review of the agreeably great, original release is already available here, we'll focus on this as a reissue itself.
My first issue with this particular idea is the distribution. Doghouse Records runs through Lumberjack/Mordam, who works with "hundreds of independent music stores, small chains, and other independent distributors throughout the world [...], [and] with national chains and one-stops to ensure the best possible distribution network," and therefore was already quite easily available. Was there some sort of proverbial bridge between Target and Best Buy desperately in need of construction? Seemingly, J thought so.
What potentially makes buying ...Is a Real Boy again, however, is not its suddenly (more) widespread accessibility; it's the bonus features. Here, it's a second disc cleverly entitled ...Was a Real Boy, a 7-song, 24-minute EP of sorts recorded approximately half a year after ...Is a Real Boy's release as demos for a possible AIDS charity record. The idea was put on the shelf, however, with the band holding off on the official recording and release until "when (hopefully) a bunch of people know the band and [they] can scrounge up a considerable chunk of change for the good of...well, whatever."
Given that situation, ...Was a Real Boy is quite good. The songs are remixed and remastered from the original leak and sound nearly as sonically complete as most anything off the Tim O'Heir-produced full-length. "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" is as perverted and poppy as anything Bemis / the band's written, though the xylophone-esque keyboards are a bit overbearing. "Metal Now" and "I Will Never Write An Obligatory Song..." both close out the disc admirably, as these are more charged than the rest of the material preceding it, especially the latter. Granted, nothing here is as powerful or alternating as the strongest tracks on ...Is a Real Boy ("Belt," "Admit It!!!," etc.), and there hardly seems to be room for cohesion on ...Was a Real Boy, but individually these songs are nearly all well-written, catchy, and sly enough, which are by this point Say Anything trademarks.
In effect, the reissue of ...Is a Real Boy is hardly terrible when viewed as a solid, slightly overpriced mini-album of completely new material from Say Anything, and for those who never bought the original to begin with, it's simply a wonderful bonus.
Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too