Say Anything has always held a unique place in the emo-cannon. They are most often associated with the 2000’s “glam-era,” in which the genre reached its peak of mainstream popularity with the success of bands like blink-182, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Paramore, to name a few. Although their debut, the excellent Is A Real Boy, came out in 2004, it stood out from the others because it wasn’t . . . cool. Front-man and mastermind Max Bemis’ voice was a bit too over the top, a bit too musical-theater to fall into the cool, sexy sad boi sweet spot that Pete Wentz ruled over. On top of that, he literally said anything, with lyrics riddled with sarcasm and irony that cut deeper into genuine self-criticism and existential doubt then most glam-era bands. Bemis also chose to model his lyrics around characters, speaking from multiple personalities throughout his work, making for more nuanced, interesting listens.
Oliver Appropriate, Say Anything’s self-proclaimed last album, is a bit of a return to form. Their previous few releases (I Don’t Think It is, and Hebrews) played off as experiments, and lacked a certain something, maybe passion, that their previous work had. Oliver Appropriate finds Bemis returning to the guitar, but this time, it’s an acoustic. The songs have an acoustic-but-not quality to them; nearly every track is based around Bemis’ strumming, but there is plenty of instrumentation surrounding it. It would be inaccurate to call this the record unplugged. There are drums on most tracks, distorted guitar leads, and backing vocals that flesh out the sound, making it anything but hushed.
Bemis’ classic, snarling delivery is also back in full. The hooks are there, the poppy melodies, the sarcasm. On this album he embodies the character of a washed-up rock star, and uses this perspective (suspiciously like his own) to offer an insider’s critique of the scene, years down the road from where he was in 2004. “I know a lot of men in hardcore bands / collectively funding the Columbians / straight edge guys who turn to weed and beer / ‘til they all got divorced and they all grew beards,” he belts in his ironic sing-song voice on “Pink Snot.” He addresses it even more directly on highlight “Ew Jersey,” “Tonight I’ll meet my friends, we were once the greatest / a band that’s coming back from a fake hiatus / hoping that the girls clinging to the bar / know who we are.” It is partly a critique and partly admission. The album is a reckoning with the past, a reflection on a band who’s moment has gone, for better or for worse.
This album is not likely to gain Say Anything any new fans, which is okay because it’s their last. Instead, it’s a return to everything they have always done best. At its core Oliver Appropriate is a pop-punk album, done in the theatrical style that their fanbase has always loved. And with 2024 fast approaching, it provides a moment to stop and reflect on how long ago that “glam-era” moment really is.
Rating: 6.9 (Solid)
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Label: Dine Alone Music Inc.
Release Date: Jan 25, 2019