Say Anything reflects on the past and challenges itself to make the future better | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Say Anything reflects on the past and challenges itself to make the future better 

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click to enlarge Max Bemis of Say Anything

Max Bemis of Say Anything

courtesy the artist

In the midst of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse within the emo and pop-punk community this fall—particularly the ones against Brand New front man Jesse Lacy—Say Anything front man Max Bemis announced on Twitter his group would no longer play their spritely, soul-influenced track about sexual impropriety, “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too.” Bemis wrote that the song, a B side from the 2006 reissue of their uncompromising 2004 rock opera, . . . Is a Real Boy, is “no longer appropriate,” and asked his (implicitly, but more specifically, male) followers to reexamine their relationships with others in the scene and do better: “We should all question the dynamics of sexuality and our role in this.” More than almost anyone else whose band emerged from the commingling of emo and pop-punk in the early 2000s, Bemis has a long history of challenging himself and asking tough questions that others would rather let fester under a rug. This is as responsible as his ambitions for his group’s audacious early records. For the next two nights Say Anything will perform its first three proper albums (Bemis has largely ignored the group’s 2001 self-released debut, Baseball). On Monday they’ll roll through . . . Is a Real Boy and the first half of 2007’s double album, In Defense of the Genre. On Tuesday they’ll play the record’s second half along with their tightest, most radio-friendly album to date, 2009’s Say Anything. Although In Defense was about upholding emo during its cultural nadir, Bemis and company also pushed back against the musical expectations of bands during that era, veering toward country (“That Is Why”) and electro-pop (“Baby Girl I’m a Blur”) while raging against, well, everyone. The album’s tenth anniversary is the impetus for this tour, and . . . Is a Real Boy is the band’s high-water mark, but over these last few weeks, I often find myself thinking about the quasi-symphonic single from Say Anything, “Do Better.” While these types of “album anniversary” tours can be rote at worst, Say Anything shows that revisiting our past is crucial in order to make for a better future.   v

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