Upon my first introduction to Say Anything, the brainchild/neurotic release of Max Bemis, I fell in love. …Is A Real Boy, the band’s first non-self-released album, hit me in all the right places. It was an amalgam of genres melded together by Bemis’ gruff, over-enunciated vocals. The record that followed, In Defense of the Genre was an ambitious double album with guest vocals strewn across almost every other track. The next two albums (Say Anything and Anarchy, My Dear) would sound like Say Anything, but didn’t quite hit me the way …Is A Real Boy did.
This brings us to Hebrews. Say Anything’s highly anticipated second release via Equal Vision Records and sixth full length of their catalog. This is also the first Say Anything project completely void of guitars. That’s right. Not a single guitar appears on this album. The absence of six strings is made up for by the sixteen guest vocalists that appear on the record.
The record begiiiiiiins… with a song… about “John McClane”? Bruce Willis’ reluctant hero character from Die Hard (aka the best Christmas movie in existence?) Well, maybe not, but it’s a hell of a song title. Upon my initial listen, I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but I immediately placed it on repeat as soon as I heard those “woooo-ooooo’s” while Bemis laced his angst laden vocals over. I was sold. The outro of the song is where we find the first guest appearance(s) on the album by Chris Conley (Saves The Day) and Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids). I was excited to see those names on the track listing; however, I was even more excited to hear how subtle the appearance is. It doesn’t distract so much as it accentuates. This becomes an apparent trend as the record continues on, and I welcome it with open arms. A dangerous road many bands travel down when filling an album with so many guests is allowing them to take over an album. Say Anything keeps clear of those hazards.
A continued theme throughout the band’s discography is Bemis’ quarrel with his inner-demons and religion. On “Six Six Six” he belts “I belong in jail/but I lied my way to Heaven/with a wife who hasn’t learned that I’m Satan yet” before bouncing into a chorus full of the sass we’ve come to know and love from Bemis.
The standout on the record is “The Shape of Love To Come.” A track that features Max’s wife Sherri Dupree (Eisley, Perma) in what may be the best love song between the two to date. “They say it takes some time to find the one you’re meant for/I spent that time in stranger’s beds.” On an album that blends genres in true Say Anything fashion, this song pinpoints where Bemis writes at his best. The standout is followed by my least favorite track on the record in “Boyd”. Something about a fast-paced circle pit inducing song on this album just feels so far out of place to me. Even with that in mind, Bemis finds his balance when it gets to the chorus.
Two of my favorite appearances on Hebrews come from Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou and Jeremy Bolm of Touché Amore. They get the chance to do their thing, which is somewhat of a contrast to the styling of Say Anything, but they both come out just right. My biggest concern for this album was seeing Tom DeLonge’s name as a contributor on “Nibble Nibble”. As someone that loves Blink 182, I am not a fan of DeLonge’s vocal style post-Blink’s self-titled. The production on this track is done extremely well and we hear a faint Tom reminiscent of Box Car Racer.
As Max Bemis’ return to producer on a Say Anything record since …Is A Real Boy, he makes all the right choices with Hebrews. This is the record that returns to that charm of Real Boy while making the appropriate edits that Defense called for.