Back in 2012, Say Anything’s infamous frontman, Max Bemis, said the band was going to put out a punk album. That album (Anarchy, My Dear) ended up being about as pop-oriented as a Katy Perry single. Barring an amazing track or two, the record was a disaster.
But, there were was a lesson learned in this moment, and maybe even a second. The term”punk” may not necessarily be a sonic quality. There is a sense of “punkness” in the lyrics that rail against Rihanna and the government. Secondly, statements made by bands about their new album are bullshit.
All this matters as it pertains to the group’s Beyonce-release, I Don’t Think It Is. The record dropped out of nowhere, and it surprised a fanbase expecting something soon around the corner. The record is chaotic and messy in mostly the wrong kind of ways, and it makes for an album that attempts to be abrasive and “crazy,” but is mostly dull.
The basic ethos of the record seems to exploit the absurd irregularities of Max Bemis as a personality. The record eccentrically switches time signatures and sounds on the fly. The dreadful “Goshua” is both dancey and obnoxious, and it fails at both. Few songs really stay in their own form for their typical three-minute runtime. It seems the band is jampacking so much into one tune, it bursts at the seams.
This can be a fantastic thing in the right context, but Say Anything hardly captures it. This is perhaps best exemplified in “Attaboy.” The last two minutes has a soft background chant uttered overtop maniacal ramblings. This experimentation was never earned, for the first five minutes was an incomprehensible muddied rant put to tape.
Say Anything may be best when they are not blatantly pop, blatantly punk, or blatantly fucking around with music conventions, as explored on “The Bret Easton Ellis School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” Aside from the pretentious use of the American Psycho author and the Fall Out Boy-inspired crap title, the song’s melancholy sound is palatable and pretty.
As always, Say Anything reaches for silly and serious in the lyrics. “Princess” seems about a girl with aspiring dreams against insurmountable odds. But, then there’s a line about Fritos Lays that is repeated more often than deserved. Say Anything don’t delicately balance the absurd with the real. They just throw the rulebook to the side entirely. The merging of electronics with guitars just doesn’t work as well because the songwriting is dilluted. It’s kind of shocking how Say Anything try so many bizarre little things without getting much of any of it right. Thye crunchy sidebar in “Jiminy” is headache-inducing. There is a solid song buried in the unnecessarily subversive and crunchy production of “Wire Mom.”
All of this remains one of the main reasons the band has such as fervent fanbase. Unfortunately, when the songs lack cohesive melodies and they reach for doing too much, you have to have the arsenal to pull it off. Say Anything jump too often, but they rarely land a moment.