Say Anything, an emo act based in L.A., has a new disc that proves that the genre can be artful and intriguing. Originally released on indie Doghouse Records in 2004, where it sold over 20,000 copies, the stunning ...Is a Real Boy is now being reissued on major label J with a seven-track bonus disc. Since Say Anything's sole singer and songwriter, Max Bemis, named his band after an iconic chick flick, Lloyd Dobler-esque adolescent angst, nail-biting self-doubt, and cheap philosophizing are a given. The album was co-produced by Hedwig and the Angry Inch co-writer Stephen Trask, which makes perfect sense, as ...Is a Real Boy is a kind of theatrical emo-opera, revolving around ''an idealistic, introverted singer-songwriter crippled by depression and anxiety,'' as the liner notes say.
Bemis was actually diagnosed with bipolar disorder last fall (see EW issue #852) and has since spent time in a psychiatric ward, so his lyrical neuroticism isn't just emo tantrum throwing.
Sad as it may be, though, his music seems to feed off a kind of manic energy. Delivering stream-of-consciousness stanzas in a spittle-spraying rasp, he always sounds one chorus from collapse. Pun-filled stories of despair (''Woe'') and twisted come-ons (''The Writhing South'') ride on tracks that recall Weezer's orchestrated anthems mixed with Supergrass' boozy pub-punk. It's an exhausting thrill, but just be glad you're not dating him. On ''Every Man Has a Molly,'' Bemis' lack of self-editing gets the best of him: ''Molly Connolly just broke up with me over the revealing nature of the songs.... I won't ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again.'' Too much information how very emo of him.