Who It Is: Say Anything – I Don’t Think It Is; Equal Vision Records (2016)
What It Sounds Like: Say Anything on drugs
What do you do when you wrote an extremely influential album more than 10 years ago and, four albums later, threw out traditional instruments to the upheaval of many? Most people in Max Bemis’s position would probably throw in the towel and perhaps focus their efforts on a budding career in comic books (which, in fact, he already kind of has). Max Bemis isn’t most people, though, so he decided to go the opposite way, pull a Beyoncé, and drop a surprise album that would blow minds. While …Is a Real Boy was clearly a work of tortured genius, I Don’t Think It Is may just be one too, albeit a different type of torture.
Say Anything has always been a confusing band, especially lately as the actual members have become more and more unclear. Max Bemis though has always been at the helm as the driving, if not sole, creative force. However, this time around he made it clear that I Don’t Think It Is was a full-on collaboration with Darren King of Mutemath. Additionally, members of bands including The Hotelier, At The Drive-In, and Tiny Moving Parts were brought in to contribute to the record. These were not simply guest spots as have been a hallmark of Say Anything in the past, but instead signified a change in the way Say Anything’s music was made. The band is now defined as a collective by Bemis himself, who said “despite Say Anything being a one-man band, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do it alone.”
If Hebrews was a complete 180 from of Say Anything’s previous work, then this new album is impossibly another 180 from both Hebrews and all that came before it, proving that Say Anything doesn’t fall into your typical circle but are instead on a waveform of their own. This album is completely balls to the wall. The electric guitar makes a triumphant return, creating some of the loudest and fastest songs the band has ever put out. Coupled with Bemis’s trademarked seething lyricism, spit with a newly unparalleled and unhinged intensity, and anchored by a steady pop drumbeat, this creates a frantic, but not unfamiliar listening experience.
Fans are eased into this new sound with the opening track, “Give A Damn” in which Bemis once again makes it clear that he is in it for the art, unafraid to speak his mind and uncaring of public reception. This message will always resonate with an audience in the alternative scene, especially when it is paired with a catchy chorus. Some of the newer and harsher aspects of the record as well as noisy distortion are introduced alongside this, hinting at more of what’s to come.
“17 Coked Up Speeding” harkens all the way back to …Is a Real Boy as it comes in with a standard guitar riff, upbeat drum, and melodic vocals. The lyrics are meta, bringing in some of the experiences of Bemis’s young adult life and self-referencing his own work. Again, experimental elements are also brought in, especially with the sloping and jangly guitar sounds that are characteristic of the current emo landscape making an appearance.
From here things get even more intense, without ever spiraling fully out of control. Additional layers continually join the fray, complimenting rather than segmenting the other peculiar tracks. It seems that Bemis has truly found new passion through these collaborations, giving some of his most realistically raw performances ever. The shouting style he employs is unpredictable but concise, and many of the choruses hit have a fittingly juxtaposed sing-along style. Bemis is also on his lyrical A-game with lines such as “Would you spit in Little Lucy’s face / Because she watches the movie Frozen / And she wants to be a princess / Even though Disney employs nearly genocidal business practices?” on “Princess.”
When you look at any band with a landmark debut, be it Say Anything, Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, or even bands like Modern Baseball and The World Is…, the future releases in their catalog often create rifts within their audience. I Don’t Think It Is is no exception, throwing much of Say Anything’s past out the window and building the foundation for a different type of future. Regardless, this album is worth a listen as it could be the one to reignite a love for the band…or it could give you something new to hate on while Max Bemis is busy not giving a fuck.
You Should Probably Listen To: “Varicose Visage,” “17 Coked Up Speeding,” “Attaboy”
Overall Rating: 8.1/10