When you think of the band Say Anything, you think of angsty rant-filled punk rock with an indie twist to it. They’ve always been a punk band that swaps out the electric guitar for an aggressive acoustic guitar and loud, angry shouting. Their previous record Anarchy My Dear was a rant-fueled indie punk masterpiece. So when Say Anything’s frontman, Mark Bemis, announced that they’d be releasing an album that would feature a orchestral string arrangements and not one or two guest vocalist but 18: you have to ask yourself “Can they pull it off?”
To be perfectly honest, they really can pull it off. They managed to keep their signature angsty sound despite the use of orchestral string arrangements. Each of the vocalists that feature alongside Bemis own each lyric that they sing (or spew in some cases). Bemis selected each of these vocalists for their delivery.
It is only fitting that two legends within the emo scene shall aid Bemis in opening Hebrews with “John Mclane.” Chris Conley (Saves The Day) and Matt Pyror (The Get Up Kids) contribute their vocals in the last minute of the song. The song is underlain by gentle synth tones that soar and progress into the next song “Six Six Six” which was the first single listeners were introduced to. Bemis’s wife, Sherri DuPree-Bemis of Eisley, contributes her vocals to this song alongside Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) and the cathartic screams of Jon Simmons from Balance and Composure. The song is a typical angsty Say Anything song yet sounds so lofty thanks to the string arrangements. Bemis lays down a brilliant lyric of “All I want is to dethrone God so that I can be crucified.”
“Judas Decapitated” is your typical angry, ranting Say Anything track with Gareth and Kim of Los Campesinos! ranting alongside Bemis in an incredibly powerful song. “Call Me Kubick” hits you hard when you realize that it is autobiographical in nature, as Bemis sings about what he could have done differently and where he would have ended up. He hands the vocals over to his sister-in-law Chauntelle DuPree-D’Agostino, also of Eisley, at the end of the track. “My Greatest Fear Is Splendid” sounds a lot like an indie folk song especially when it picks up the tempo and the horn section kicks in. Keith Buckley delivers a very interesting non-Every Time I Die styled vocal performance. You can see the song hinting to Bemis’s Jewish up-bringing in terms of the sound and the lyrics. For instance: “Put the fear in me.”
The next song, “Hebrews,” reflects Bemis’s own views on Judaism and it is safe to assume that he feels disillusioned by some aspects of it. Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms delivers some mighty vocals within this song. “Push” features the brilliant Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou. Between the two, they deliver a song which bleeds catharsis. “The Shape of Love to Come” is a touching love ballad about how life was before meeting his wife Sherri DuPree. What is even better is that Sherri DuPree features alongside him on this song and the duet is absolute perfection. What tops if off is how Bemis proceeds to express his gratification for meeting her.
“Lost My Touch” may be my favourite song on this entire album. (Probably because it features my all time favourite Jeremy Bolm of Touché Amore.) This song begins with a soothing piano piece and Bemis takes a much calmer stance on this song. He lets go of the punk rocker in him and engages in a beautiful duet with D’Agostiono as he sings about his apparent “inability” to make anything worthwhile. Bolm’s vocals kick in on the end of the song and absolutely melt my heart, because I have a major crush on his vocals. He delivers the fantastic lyric of “You can drown in the love of yesterdays.” The final track, “Nibble Nibble” features the ever-so amazing Tom DeLonge of Blink 182. I am a major Blink 182 fan and DeLonge’s vocals are beyond beautiful. It makes for a final track that soars and explodes into a brilliant climax with DeLonge’s vocals ever-so present in the background.
Overall, I didn’t know what to expect with this album. I spent my early teenage years growing up with the punk rock nature of Say Anything, so this is a new sound for me to hear from them. However, I must say that I really loved this album. Sure, some of the songs would have been better with guitars but Say Anything did not lose their signature punk sound on this album. It is a truly remarkable effort and definitely achieved Bemis’s goal of making an album for himself.
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