Mike said things around here were getting a little too serious. So I’m going to write about a band.
I spent a large portion of my life surrounding myself (almost) exclusively with people who shared my music interests. If there wasn’t at least one band we could agree on, we probably wouldn’t be friends. Based on my recent Their / They're / There experience, things may not have changed that much. But the way music influences my life today pales in comparison to what it meant in highschool or college.
In college, I would spend days sitting around dark dorm rooms and shitty apartments with virtual strangers just listening to music. Sometimes there would be alcohol involved, but not always. The conversation was important, but not nearly as important as the next record you played... because, when I was 19, that was what mattered.
It was during one of these sessions that I first heard the angsty musings of Max Bemis and Say Anything when a friend played "Walk Through Hell". If you were to describe what the song sounded like, I probably wouldn’t have even wanted to listen to it. Thankfully, My friend was smart enough not to tell me what I was about to hear before she played the song. I'm glad she did. There was something authentic and revealing about the lyrics that connected with me... Well, that and the angst.
Say Anything sounded similar to the music I was listening to, but it there was something fresh about it. I mean, the themes that Bemis wrote about on Is a Real Boy are not much different that what you would find on a New Found Glory record, but the way these themes were deconstructed was something new to me. It seemed more biographical, but somehow more universal. Good writing works in mysterious ways.
Say Anything has come a long way since the release of Is a Real Boy in 2004. With each record Bemis and company releases, Say Anything seems hell bent on defying expectations. No two Say Anything records sound the same, yet there is an undeniable thread that unifies everything the band does. Bemis takes chances and writes the albums he wants to hear. Sometimes that turns people off, but I’m willing to bet it makes his most ardent fans love him more. I can safely say that this daring approach make me respect the man behind the music a whole lot more.
Let’s fast forward 10 years, past great records like In Defense of the Genre, Say Anything(Self Titled), and Anarchy My Dear to June 10, 2014. It was on that day that Say Anything released their newest album Hebrews. A quick journey through the track listing feels like looking at a pop-rap album from 2001. Every single song on the album features at least one guest vocalist. For fans of Say Anything, this shouldn’t be a shocker. Some of Say Anything’s most memorable tunes feature guest vocalists (I tend to like anything that features Chris Conley of Saves the Day, but that shouldn’t surprise you by now.).
If you go into Hebrews blind, the initial melodies feel like a throwback to Is a Real Boy, but it's obvious that something is different. Despite the big name guest vocalists (I.E. Tom Delonge), the album feels more raw than Say Anything has released in a long time. This is ironic considering that seemed to be the goal of Say Anything's last album, Anarchy, My Dear. That album was good, but it didn't quite capture the primal feeling of Is a Real Boy the way Hebrews does. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. This is the first Say Anything album that truly is “The Max Bemis” show since Is a Real Boy.
I’m not entirely convinced that Bemis’ exclusive ownership of the creative process is what evokes the same emotions in me that I felt listening to Is a Real Boy. I think it evokes theses feelings because, like Is a Real Boy, Hebrews sounds different... unique. In a genre(that I love) that can start to feel very homogeneous, Hebrews stands on it's own. While the source of that feeling was difficult to pinpoint in the Is a Real Boy, it is definitive in the Hebrews. Bemis, true to his nature, took a rebellious leap with Hebrews. He wrote a pop punk album that is completely void of the genre’s driving instrument, the guitar.
Does he pull it off? That’s up to you. After a few listens, I don’t find myself yearning for the classic power chords that define the music I listen to. The songs do not feel like they are missing anything. They sound well rounded. Complete. While I’m not yet sure if Hebrews deserves a spot in my personal music hall of fame, I am certain is deserves a chance.
Let's hear it for the rebellious ones.