On paper, LA lads Say Anything have cookie-cutter emo credentials: middle-class backgrounds; oodles of insecurity (they’ve cancelled a couple of tours due to mainman Max Bemis’ nervous breakdowns); plenty of genre cross-pollination (Bemis has guested on recordings by everyone from The Starting Line to Motion City Soundtrack and his band has toured with Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, My Chemical Romance, so on and so forth.); and even the requisite ironic retro t-shirts. But scratch the musical surface and Say Anything, like their similarly progressive peers Thrice and MCR, only used guitar-tossing angst as a springboard to something all together more ambitious and eclectic—which is exactly why they’ll be one of emo’s few long-term survivors.
The big hint was on their sophomore effort, 2004’s . . . Is a Real Boy (re-released in ‘06), where Stephen Trask, composer of hit musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, was drafted in to help with arrangements. Sure, the template of this “punk rock musical” is still peppy OC guitars, lyrics about girlfriends and plenty of imploring vocals, but Say Anything were already showing they had sufficient self-esteem to venture further. Last year’s double-concept disc continued their fuck-you-nothing-is-off-the-table approach—blatant pop melodies and production; flecks of electronica; sub-Santana guitar noodling; heavily treated vocals/samples—which, predictably (and depressingly), had message boards lighting-up with “sell-out” whining. But don’t panic, bloggers: all the organic, youthful anguish (“Spores”); solid songwriting (“Baby Girl I’m a Blur”); and lyrics about girls (“Shiksa”) are still there—this just isn’t a band that’s going to release essentially the same album five times. (Paul Rogers)
Say Anything, Manchester Orchestra, Weatherbox at The Glass House, 200 W. 2nd Street, Pomona, (909) 865-3802. Doors at 6PM; Tickets are $17.50 in advance, $20 night of the show. All ages