Say Anything

The strange premise of Say Anything is a Real Boy as explained in the liner notes is that the album is a punk-rock opera built around a character named Max Bemis, cursed by a "supernatural power" that causes his "inner-most fears, fantasies, and thoughts to burst forth from his unsuspecting mouth in the form of fully orchestrated rock anthems." Only it's no premise; Max Bemis is, in fact, a real boy--an early-20-something who plays just about all the instruments on his band's refreshing debut. The album is a stream-of-consciousness tirade of blunt, personal and witty songs that meander between loud and complicated rants and delicate epiphanies. Often, the brutally honest (and occasionally funny) self-exploration turns awkwardly sexual, as when he blurts out the limerick "This girl who I met, whose pride makes her hard to forget/She took pity on me, horizontally/But most likely because of my band." Sung with faux humility, the swinging line is broken up with stop-time rhythms to drive home the punch line. This and other abrupt tempo and mood changes are extravagant, theatrical and sometimes unnerving, but hardly ever unjustified. Ultimately whether the "supernatural" concept is a breakthrough or a crutch is debatable, but it's at least original.