There often comes a time when a band has to seperate themselves from their past. Say Anything are a band that has had a hard time doing just this. Since their sophomore album, ‘…Is a Real Boy’, gained universal prase from critics and garnered the band a cult, fanatical, fanbase, they have had a hard time replicating that records success. ‘…Is A Real Boy’ was messy, anarchistic, satiric, and brilliant. Max Bemis, lead singer and only remaining founding member, has struggled with drug addiction and mental health issues over the years, however since his marriage to Serri DuPree (of band Eisley), he has stabled up his life. Fans, meanwhile, seemed to prefer his former, messed up, self, continually asking for ‘…Is a Real Boy’ part 2, and this reached fever pitch after a disappointing 2012 album, named ‘Anarchy, My Dear’. So how do you combat these fans? Simple. You make one of the most daring records of the year.
‘Hebrews’ is the most different Say Anything record to date, and is one of the most unusual records to come out of the scene in years. Prior to it’s release, Bemis stated ‘Hebrews’ would not contain a single guitar, and while that sparked many concerns (my own included), the record exceeds all expectations. Third song ‘Judas Decapitation’ shows Bemis at his visceral best lyrically, hitting back at these fans with a nod to his past, saying “Be 19 with a joint in hand / Never change the band / Never ever be a / … Real man”.
Each song manages to sound chaotic and aggressive, despite it’s lack of guitars, and that has to be credited to both Bemis’ intense and bitter vocal style, and the bands ability to compose impressive arrangements with the orchestral instruments used on the record. ‘Six Six Six’ contains a heavy synthesizer solo, while the title track meanwhile opens with a dramatic violin duel before containing a bridge relying heavily on the accordion. Hearing these instruments in such an album could have been jarring in the wrong hands, but Bemis and co make it work superbly.
Another defining factor on the album is the sheer amount of guest vocalists. Each song contains at least one, and over the 12 tracks, there are a total of 17 different vocalist, including four appearances by his wife. As expected they are of varying quality. Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra provides a brilliant soothing tone on ‘Six Six Six‘, while Touché Amoré vocalist Jeremy Bolm provides a harsh contrast in the slow burning ballad ‘Lost My Touch’. The most high profile guest vocalist is Blink 182vocalist Tom DeLonge whose distinctive voice is a definite highlight of last track ‘Nibble Nibble’.
Overall, ‘Hebrews’ is a success. The only problem it may have is convincing hardcore fans to give it a real try, but they should, because above all, it’s the best record Bemis has made in a decade. It’s an experiment that triumphs and succeeds due to the intense vision of it’s creator. Say Anything are a different beast on this record, but crucially, they’re back on form.
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Written by Sam Cowen.