When I first read the 10-page treatise on Say Anything’s demise (which I strongly suggest you do, as well), I was disappointed. I was disappointed, of course, that one of my favorite bands would no longer regularly make music, but I was also disappointed at the concept album slated to be their last. In reading Max Bemis’s thought process for the album, I was disappointed to see that this guy, who I had cheered for as he sobered up and became a family man, was artistically back where he started so many years ago.
According to Bemis, Oliver Appropriate is a sequel to …Is a Real Boy. So Max decides he’s metaphorically gonna get back into all of these insecurities and coping mechanisms that he covered way back in 2004. Oliver is Max, but not really. If you read what he wrote, it was super hard for him to get back into that mindset to create the character. He had effectively put that behind him with the rest of Say Anything’s albums. The ones where he talks about his wife, his experiences with Judaism, his struggles with family situations, and the political climate of the 2000’s. The authentic ones. That’s why I was so discouraged when I read about what we were in for. I wanted Say Anything’s final moves to be made of the same authenticity. Once I listened to it though, I realized it is authentic.
I don’t want to say that Max failed in his attempt to create the worst of the worst in punk rock, but he kind of did. Even though it’s under the guise of Oliver and about Oliver, Max is actually the name written all over this album. And even though I was originally disappointed with this direction, it was the direction I think I actually wanted all along. I think IARB had some loose ends that needed tying up. Some final thoughts on what the character’s lifestyle ended up turning him into. And, without a doubt, Oliver is the kid from IARB, just a little more grown up. He’s still just as deplorable, so much so that he ends up murdering the guy he’s supposedly “in love” with, as Max and Sherri sing in “The Hardest”.
Musically, the album is quintessential Say Anything. From “Daze”, where we get the definitive sound, to “Your Father”, where we get the scathing lyricism, Max held nothing back. There are all the expected features of friends and family, including Brianna Collins from Tigers Jaw. He says that this might not be the last Say Anything project, but it’s true enough to form, which makes me think this could be. And that’s fine with me, because his reasoning is that “[he] won’t put himself in harm’s way for anything now.” I’d way rather see someone I’ve been invested in be healthy than see them crumble.
The most telling point in the album comes at the very end of “Sediment”, with Max’s spoken word. If we take Max’s advice and treat Oliver Appropriate as the sequel to …Is a Real Boy, then it’s only right that it ends that way. What’s different here, and perhaps the most bittersweet as the Say Anything door closes for now, is the confidence that Max delivers this piece with. He sums up virtually every album the band has released in this short but moving conclusion. We’ve listened as he says, “It’s only a few lines, but I’m having anxiety about it” right up until the point where he’s so vulnerable that it seems like he’s crying when he says, “I’m viciously hungering for someone / To love me the way my parents never did”.
We’ve essentially watched Max Bemis grow up through Say Anything and to have it end this way is something only he could do. Any other group can try to have their final (?) album echo their first, but it would sound cheesy and try-hard. Bemis has made his career this way so it’s not awkward — it’s expected. Say Anything has been a pillar of punk and emo since I can remember (admittedly not that long of a time, but still), and Oliver Appropriate is a fitting final chapter for them.
by Nadia Paiva
Nadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.