Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Say Anything

Anarchy, My Dear (2012)

Equal Vision

Sometime around around 2005, Say Anything seemed poised to take over the world. The band's sophomore album, ...Is A Real Boy, was set to be reissued by major label J Records and Max Bemis was being heralded in some quarters as the voice of a generation. Well, Say Anything never seemed to capitalize on its momentum as that reissue took a year longer than expected and a follow-up didn't come ‘til 2007. The bloated In Defense of the Genre received a mixed reception from fans and critics alike. The theatrical magic of the group's debut seemed to have been spent over its next few releases and there was no coming back, at least until Anarchy, My Dear.

What made ...Is A Real Boy so great is as self-aware and self-reflexive it got, it was still a true rock spectacle. Anarchy, My Dear operates in much of the same ways without sounding like a copy of the original, even producing a sequel to "Admit It!!!". "Burn A Miracle" finds Bemis in storytelling mode, switching between third and first person and blurring the line between societal criticism and confessional over a rhythmic post-punk instrumental. Where "Admit It!!!" lashed out at the fake fashion over substance scene the band came up in, "Admit It Again" takes aim at those that abandoned the band after ...Is A Real Boy and thrive on a sense of Internet cool. Like the original this is a mostly spoken-word performance from Bemis, but it is a far more musical and brief offering, in some ways trumping the first installment.

Since the band's inception as a relatively generic pop-punk band, Say Anything has evolved with each release, incorporating new influences from arena rock to R ‘n' B and Anarchy, My Dear is no different. You have songs like "So Good" and "Sheep" that are grounded in synthpop, which is relatively new territory for Say Anything. Then there are places that could fit more easily into past work but with slight twists thrown in so so they don't feel like retreads. For instance, "Night Song" has a bass-driven show tunesy quality and gnarly guitar solo that wouldn't have been out of place on ...Is A Real Boy, but it gives way to a repetitive, ethereal section that recalls '90s emo. While it is easy to see aspects of the '60s folk movement in Say Anything's previous records and Bob Dylan cover, "Peace Out" marries contemporary pop sensibility with a much older folk tradition.

Anarchy, My Dear easily contains some of Say Anything's best work to date. It is contemplative, confident and infectious with really dynamic compositions. The overt poppishness of much of the album may turn some listeners off but compared to what a lot bands pass off as pop, this album is a breath of fresh air. If you've written off the band recently this album is a reason to come back and give Bemis a second chance.