I don't think it is [bad at all].
When a band is as revered as Say Anything, their decision to drop a surprise album is nothing but a straight-up gift. So did Christmas come (very) early with their new record ‘I Don’t Think It Is’? You better believe it.
As is the way with mastermind Max Bemis, Say Anything’s seventh full-length is inventive enough to make sure that no one’s able to fully compare it to any previous release. In this case, Bemis incorporates a hip-hop influence throughout its playback to enforce an element of creativity as unexpected as the album was. Indeed, even though ‘I Don’t Give A Damn’ opens on an anthemic, punky note, encompassing noises that sound like a whammy-pedal-gone-rogue, Say Anything and the project’s collaborators step outside the Mohawk-shaped box. The uncharacteristic beats on ‘Goshua’ and ‘Attaboy’ enable the hip hop inspirations on the record to become detectable, particularly with melodies bouncing off soundscapes definitively yet naturally. The latter track taps into the everyday as Say Anything continue to preserve their ability to solicit empathy by mentioning mundane topics like ‘co-workers’ and combining them with absurdities like the conclusion that Batman probably listens to In My Eyes.
Interestingly, despite the fresh aspects of their output, this still feels very much like a Say Anything record, even, at times, triggering nostalgia for prior albums. The almighty ‘In Defense of the Genre’ LP is recalled on ’17 Coked Up And Speeding’ through its anecdotal and unpolished qualities, while ‘The Bret Easton Ellis of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ is ‘Admit It’-esque in terms of criticising a social type, even if that category of person is restricted to a single individual. Even the guests on the album recall memories of ‘In Defense’ and even recent album ‘Hebrews’. Though, in general, releases can be evaluated mostly by what they sound like, Say Anything always manage to force us to scratch below the surface, like making us uncover the golden reunion of Zack and Christian from The Hotelier on Frozen-referencing cut ‘Princess’.
Speaking of Say Anything’s seemingly in-erasable characteristics, the idiosyncratic ‘Varicose Visage’ sustains the overall way in which they combine their past identity with fresh ideas to generate a praiseworthy musical offering. The tune is commentary-like but also instrumentally experimental, substituting the sound of the traditional four-piece rock band with drums and beats for the first part of the song and almost causing Bemis to pop a vein by the end (or to sound like he’s popping a vein, at least). At the end of the day, that’s what we see it being all about for Say Anything: establishing an investment so personal you can hear it down to every vocal strain that Bemis has got to offer.
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On ‘The Bret Easton Ellis School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’, Bemis persistently repeats: ‘is this what you wanted?’ Even though we know he’s not talking about this exactly, it still applies: this is the album we never knew we wanted until we got it, and you’re god damn right that this firecracker of an LP is bound to reinstate Say Anything as kingpins in our musical community.
1. Give A Damn
2. 17 Coked Up Speeding
4. So Numb
8. The Bret Easton Ellis School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
10. Wire Mom
12. Varicose Visage