“Get lost in the dead of the night where once I lived on Grand Street.

Deaf from Chucks on bones crushed white. 
New Brooklyn bows before me. 
Soak it all in and let it run deep, glory in delusion. 
I can picture us, 
Waltz in the ruins of this wilted gray contusion.

Sometimes, when she’s far and I’m drunk, I clutch her like a compass. 
Never thought of being anything but quixotic and self-conscious. 
Some ache to guide your hand, to pull out of the socket. 
I’m the cricket that lets you burn while I smolder in your pocket.”
Say Anything, I Don’t Think It Is

I didn’t know Max Bemis planned on releasing a new Say Anything record this week, so I was had an extra surprise when he started streaming it for free the day prior.

Sad to say I lost the plot on his records after “In Defense of the Genre,” which always felt like too much to wrap my head around despite some catchy standouts. This record feels far more organized than that, with the same outrage-inspired message. The musical maturity of Max Bemis since he stole a generation’s heats and minds on “…Is A Real Boy” is obvious, with more intricate parts and progressions, but the same tired, aggressive snarl.

Emotional expression remains the star of this show, even in newfound restraint – the end of “Attaboy,” in particular, features a nice sort of post-rock delicacy under screamed-in-despair vocals.  Track 2, “17 Cokes Up Speeding,” feels like a throwback, capturing the anxiety and depression Bemis has always channeled with punked-out chords and dizzying technique. There’s some really excellent guitar parts and harmony-filled hooks, and Darren King (brother-in-law by marriage to Bemis) is a strong addition to the sound (feel like I hear more of him behind a kit on this than I do on MuteMath’s “Vitals,” it seems, at least as far as that smooth, understated backbeat goes).   

As a musician, Max Bemis remains experimental – whether this is for its own sake or to underscore his messaging, I can’t be sure. He continues to plays around with spoken word and hip-hop samples, like on “Goshua” and odd choice for a closer “Varicose Visage” and I have to wonder what feedback he’s received. But then a track like “Jiminy” returns to the dramatic kickdrum-backed melodies and brilliantly twisted wordplay that have made the backbone of Bemis’ discography, full of buoyant grit and graceless glory.

I’m surprised how much I like this, having given up on Say Anything’s sound as a little too disorganized and radical for my tastes. I’ve preferred to hear Max Bemis acoustic or in Perma, like when I caught that show in December 2013.  But where “I Don’t Think It Is” veers into unfamiliar territory, it’s still a confessional ode to the art of grappling with the mind and its anxieties, which is an unsurprisingly comforting listen for me, for now, regardless.

“I’m 23 locked up in the asylum
Listening too much to my own album
Sent me spinning out death-wish-bound to forge a callous
Stomping on the seesaw where I balance
I’m at that age where I actually go to parties
And I sit in the back with a drink and let them judge me
While I pray to the devil that a hurricane comes to take us
We’ll be torn away from all the ways we fake trust

‘Hey, kid!
You’re not a kid anymore!
You’re not a kid anymore!’

 Said the fool to the mystic
“Be realistic!”

He replied with a lipstick sigil:
‘You always think too much and feel too little’

‘Hey, kid!
You’re not a kid anymore!

You’re not a kid anymore!’

Said the fool to the mystic
‘Be realistic!’
He replied with a lipstick sigil,

‘You always think too much and feel too little.‘”
~17 Coked Up Speeding
Say Anything, I Don’t Think It Is