Oliver Appropriate deserves your attention. All of it.
After nearly two decades of making passionate and distinct music, Say Anything called a quits in the summer of 2018. “A Goodbye Summation” by lead vocalist and guitarist Max Bemis can be read here: http://eisley.com/SA/SAY_ANYTHING%E2%80%93%E2%80%93A_GOODBYE_SUMMATION.pdf
As described in Bemis’ summation, he will continue to make music and write comics. Say Anything is not the end for him - he will go on with being a creator.
Oliver Appropriate is the eighth and possibly final studio release from Say Anything. It is a concept and story-like album that picks up where 2004’s …Is a Real Boy left off.
The album starts off with “The Band Fuel,” and it features Bemis’ created character, Oliver from …Is a Real Boy. Oliver is living in Brooklyn and struggling with his sexuality and drug use. With its acoustic backings and eventual kick in of the entire band, this track sets the tone for a reflective and bittersweet LP. It also has that signature out of tune piano at the end of it, echoing earlier Say Anything tracks such as “All Choked Up.”
“Daze” goes on to blast listeners with an almost Hebrews-like sound. With its upbeat melodies and insomniac-ridden lyrics, the track continues Bemis’ narrative concerning Oliver quite well. Like “Pink Snot,” there is a theme of drug abuse throughout this album. It’s quasi-autobiographical, yet it is not.
“Greased,” unlike the tracks before it, seems musically out of place. It definitely has thought-provoking lyrics. Still, it feels more like an intermission rather than a concrete track. “Fired” falls into this category as well with its lack of backup instrumentals.
Both tracks are transitions, and sadly they feel like filler. Is this a bad thing? Not in the slightest. Do the tracks seem out of place and a little odd the first time listening through the album? Yes. This is especially true if you do not know Bemis’ backstory.
This whole album falls apart musically if you have not followed Bemis’ career. It is not meant to be an …Is a Real Boy 2 in terms of solely instrumental sound. The story and lyrics are what needs to be listened to – not just the instrumentals.
When it comes down to conceptual themes, “Ew Jersey” is probably one of the more on-the-nose songs on the record. The band and Bemis seem to be making fun of themselves. From singing of a “fake hiatus” to labeling themselves as pigeonholed, the track comes off as being comical and catchy.
The entire album just has a type of cheerful and almost optimistic nihilistic vibe going for it. That will hopefully make sense to somebody; it has a good ring to it – optimistic nihilism. Put that on a bumper sticker – “I’m an optimistic nihilist. Hit me. I dare you.”
Carrying on, “Mouth Breather” instrumentally echoes the band’s self-titled record. Bemis’ wife, Sherri backs her husband while the two sing of Oliver’s latest love interest, Karl. As usual, Sherri’s vocals act as a contrast to Max’s creating a successful balance.
The tragic story of Oliver continues with “When I’m Acid” blasting through with its self-degrading lyrics. Bemis sings, “I’m worth hating” throughout the song. With its upbeat acoustics, you will probably find yourself singing along to this one.
“Captive Audience” certainly goes on to echo piano-laced songs off In Defense of the Genre. With Karl being the narrator’s love interest and Oliver swooning for him on this track, the tone of the album begins to change at this point. It takes a pretty drastic and mentally unstable turn.
“Your Father” follows with the first ever Say Anything track not sung by Bemis. Karl Kuehn of Museum Mouth takes the lead on this upbeat track. This song along with following “Send You Off,” will most likely resonate with anybody that relates to the sexual confusion topics as heard on the record.
The climax of the LP is arguably track 12, “It’s a Process.” Oliver desperately chases after Karl. With a gun. (That’s fun, right?) This is after Oliver being fired from his dull marketing job on “Fired.”
Bemis goes on to sing, “I’ll slit your throat and leave you gaping” on “The Hardest.” The 14-track, epic-like album then ends with “Sediment,” and Bemis singing, “Thank God I’m done with this.”
Ultimately, Oliver Appropriate ends with the Oliver character ascending into death and accepting what he has done with his life. The LP is dark, thought-provoking, and chaotically acoustic-leaning; it is not for the light-hearted. At all. It is meant to be listened to in order – much like reading a story start to finish.
As mentioned by Bemis, at the end of the record, he would like to think that Oliver is reborn and goes somewhere better. This conclusion was reached upon Bemis declaring in his summation, that writing the songs on this record, along with touring in general, nearly killed him.
Musically, this LP is distinct and carries its story well – if understood. If a listener is just jumping into Say Anything with this one, it might just seem out of place and not as meaningful. If you are a long-time fan of Bemis, this record does not disappoint. It is a dark, passionate, and an emotional goodbye.
Oliver Appropriate drops tomorrow via Dine Alone Records ( you can get it here). Listen to it; this album is important. It is relevant. It is emotional. It is relatable. It is the end of an era for Say Anything.
Oliver Appropriate simply deserves every ounce of attention it can get.
Standout Tracks: All of them, except “Greased” and “Fire,” but even those are great as standalone tracks.
Freelance Writer and Photographer