Since when has it been cool for dudes to cry? You turn around for a minute and suddenly the same kids who were frontin' at the mall are weeping on each other's shoulders. Did emo spawn the sensitivity of the new century or visa-versa? Either way, I guess I'd rather see a show with a room full of glassy-eyed wrecks in second-hand sweaters than a bunch of tatted punks with a taste for blood. The waterworks should be in full effect for the Dashboard Confessional show at the Ridglea Theater, but not during The Anniversary's set. Sure, The Anniversary has an emo pedigree--signed to The Get Up Kids' Heroes and Villains label--but its sound has outgrown the genre. Whereas 2000's Designing a Nervous Breakdown was a straight-ahead emo record, the recently released Your Majesty is a series of left turns. Three-and-a-half-minute pop tunes are counterbalanced by six-minute epics; new-wave synth is offset by tongue-wagging guitar solos; the three-part harmonies coexist with such un-emo lyrics as, "Shake your hips pretty darling/Oh sugar, c'mon!"
The effortlessly handsome Josh Berwanger, who appears in Jarvis Cocker Coke-bottle glasses in the CD sleeve, is the face of the group; but the hero of Your Majesty is Adrianne Pope, with her angelic vocals and always-appropriate keys. While The Anniversary's male/female dynamic often draws comparison to The Rentals, the side project of former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, the band's new sound approaches the gritty sweetness of Superchunk, or Weezer itself. "Crooked Crown" is ironic arena rock at its best, with Berwanger's cocksure vocals and Justin Roelofs' soaring guitar line. The album opener, "Sweet Marie," is equally memorable for its staggering piano riff and Berwanger's cries of, "Oh, you need to be loved!" It's apparent that Berwanger and Roelofs are getting off writing big, important rock songs--and for the most part it works. The exception is the over-the-top acoustic number "The Ghost of the River"; ironically, the quietest track on the album features more rock posturing than any other on Your Majesty.
The most intriguing track is "Husam Husam," which begins like "Ceremony"-era New Order and ends with an anthemic chorus. The Anniversary's thick guitar and retro synths achieve a perfect marriage on "Tu-Whitt Tu-Whoo" and "Peace, Pain & Regret," the latter a sugary, pogoing tune. Unfortunately, the disc runs out of steam as "The Death of the King" disintegrates into howling winds and fades into "Follow the Sun," which plays like the reprise of a song that wasn't on the album. All in all, though, it's a satisfying listen and a laudable sophomore effort. As Berwanger sings on "Never Die Young," "Back in the back of my head/I'll never forget these songs"; well, at least most of them.
The Anniversary with Dashboard Confessional and Ben Kweller