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Say Anything

2/4/16



“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.”
~Jiminy
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

6/26/14

There’s a new Say Anything record out, and I listened to it, and it was good, but I didn’t really want to listen to it again. Instead I just wanted to listen to old Say anything, so this evening I’ve been rediscovering songs from records I’d only given a try once or tonight.

“…Is a Real Boy,” is a classic, no questions asked. But later albums have choice tracks that have, in many ways, evolved from there. Truly an artist, Max Bemis never shies away from “the crazy,” but rather embraces it. So with each record he’s change his focus some, tapped into new perspectives or attitudes. “Hebrews” looks outward as much as it does in. It’s incredibly passionate, and breaks and bends with frustration at every turn of a chorus to a bridge.  It’s a little chaotic, and it feels like madness in a lot of ways. Though I don’t think I’ll get too much more into it, I’m glad it retains some of that same independent, forceful rebellion that made his breakout so bold and memorable.What has always stood out more, to me, are the songs that channel the insatiable, the thirst for someone else or something for me, a theme you’ll see through it all – and as far back as 2002.

Twelve years ago, Bemis did things a lot more simplistically. What a pretty, strange little song this is. But it’s still so weird, so right with all its wrong notes, and for how brash and brazen the phrasing is. With the almost sleazy way he sounds, the way he speaks of sweat and spit, it’s a song about sex, sure, but there’s something more, in the “sugar” and the “angel” that’s coming from more than the physical attraction, from the angle that was missed.

Way to go, “About Falling” YouTube playlist, for bringing me back to this one.

“You’re looking quite sharp, sugar.

You’ve got some teeth on that stare.
You’ve got them tattered blue jeans on.
You’ve done that thing with your hair.
This bed could use a secret and these pounding hearts could keep it.
If you could, then I could, I swear.

You turned me on and I’d like to know if you were trying.
Angel we are so gone.

By tonight
The earth bursts open

By tonight
We shed this clothing
You’ll see me from the angle that you missed.
Nothing exists, but this.

You’re looking high strung, sugar. 

Why don’t you sink a little bit?
Into the sea of sweat our skin can spit.

It was good to keep me guessing because you know i hate attention,
But can we get down to it? Can we get down to it?

You turned me on and I’d like to know if you were trying.
Angel we are so gone.

By tonight
The earth bursts open
By tonight
we shed this clothing
By tonight
You’ll see me from the angle that you missed.
Nothing exists, but this.

~By Tonight
Say Anything, Menorah/Mejora


1/15/2014

Late last year I caught a fantastic acoustic show featuring Max Bemis of Say Anything along with his wife, Sherri. Their side project Perma has grown on me steadily since then – I’d given the album a few listens before the show, but watching their performance made me understand it on a deeper level, past the sonic and into the soul.

Here’s a pair of artists who have found a way to write through their relationship, sticking true to their individual sounds and drawing inspiration from each other. You can hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes, even before paying attention to what the words mean. Sherri’s voice is astounding, beautiful and bright and pure and incredibly unique. It’s in such contrast to Max’s gruff, gutteral tones that their harmonies and overlapping parts are hard to forget. Watching Sherri manipulate a mic is a show all on its own; you can see the focus coming off her fingers as she grips the head and pulls away gently, as she leans towards Max and closes her eyes.

While the recording has a full band, I think they sound best acoustic, stripped and simple from start to finish. I’m looking forward to hearing what’s next from their collaborations, but already this song has become a fast, frequent favorite of mine. It’s sweet and slow and singable, altogether heartwarming, and sometimes that’s exactly what I need to hear.

“I can’t speak, you know, I can’t speak
I’ll be your tongue, I’ll be your gums
I can’t breathe, girl, I can’t breathe
I will inflate your tiny lungs
I can’t stop, no, I can’t stop
Nailing you down, keeping you around
I won’t lie, swear, I won’t lie
I’ll be your queen, so here’s the crown

Well, you can have me and you can take me
I want to see you bright and bare

Well, you can touch me and you can have me
I want to feel you
Right there

You and I
You shine a little light on my life when I can’t believe it
You and I
You shine a little light on my life, light on my life, yeah
You and I
You put a little light in my heart and I can’t conceal it
You and I, you and I, you and I

Will you say yes? Will you cry no?
If you say so, we’ll be betrothed
Will you come near? Can’t you come here?
It’s not that easy, don’t you know
Down, I’m too deep. Girl, I can’t sleep

I’m your alarm, weak to your charms
Sing sweetly, you sing so sweetly
I’ll be your ten-part harmony


Well, you can have me and you can take me
I want to see you shed your doubts
Well, you can touch me and you can have me
There’s something special about

You and I
You shine a little light on my life when I can’t believe it
You and I
You shine a little light on my life, light on my life,
You and I
You put a little light in my heart and I can’t conceal it
You and I, you and I, you and I

So please believe
You and I, we’ll get by on the pattern of the embers in your eyes
Thin-skinned, I’m sinking in, sun bursts above and we begin
You and I, I think I’m floating, I’m gonna lose my mind just knowing
You and I, you and I

~Little Light

Perma, Two of a Crime

6/29/10

“Drink alone and watch TV.
You’re expecting harmonies
To tap your tune with silver spoons,
The anthem of impending doom.
Guiding Satan’s steady hand.
Forcing Beatles to disband.
It’s ego freaks and drama queens
The young at heart know what I mean.

You could do better, you could do better
You could be the greatest man in the world
You could do better, you could do better
You could be the greatest man in the world

You could do better, better than that
you’re a fraud
Thank God you learned to keep your shirt on.

You could do better, you could do better
You could be the greatest man in the world”

~Do Better,
Say Anything, Say Anything

11/7/08

iPods on shuffle…I can’t give it up.

1) Say Anything-Spores, In Defense of the Genre
2)Ani DiFranco-Shameless [Re-Recorded Version}, Canon (Disc 1)
3)The Beatles-Hey, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, Help
4)Radiohead-I Might Be Wrong, Amnesiac

I don’t know why but it totally worked. And I love Spores. More on that later.

11/6/08

If I ever get into a bar fight…
…I may be listening to the end of Say Anything’s “Belt” in my head.

What say you (what say you)
And all your friends (and all your friends)
Meet all of my friends (my friends)
In the alley tonight, yeah

–Say Anything, Belt
…Is A Real Boy

9/23/08

Wtf mate?
Apparently this was for a week in August, and then went away…but now, again, you can purchase your own Say Anything song.

Max Bemis Song Shop….what a concept. THAT is something new. How interactive is music going to get? I wonder how it would feel to hear a song written JUST about you. And not by a musician you know, who is involved in your personal life, but a total stranger or one of your favorite musicians.

Let’s see how far this goes. Not gonna lie, if I had $150 to throw around right now I’d so do it just to hear what it sounds like.

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