Sunday, April 8, 2012

On Say Anything

My best friend E. once said that a favourite band is the kind of band that is there for you, not just the other way around. You look at parts of your life history, and that band's music is playing in the background. Not necessarily that you were listening to their album when you got into grad school or met the love of your life, but when you think about those times, they meld in your memory with songs your favourite band gave to you. You listened, and you made them part of yourself.

Say Anything has been there for me since 2005, when I first saw their video for Alive with the Glory of Love on Fuse, which at some point stopped airing music videos, just like all the other stations did. I was initially struck by how hot the bass player was, but pretty rapidly I turned my attention to the song, which was catchy, but had an incredibly lyrical and fantastic story--that of the lead singer's grandparents during the Holocaust. I loved it, I couldn't get enough of it, I wanted more. So I went to Best Buy (sigh, no local music stores here) and found their first official album, ...Is a Real Boy, for something sad like $7.98, and bought it. And listened, and listened, and fell so desperately in love with every song in a very different way. Music lovers all have those albums, ones where they just can't get enough. They listen for weeks, months, years. For me, ...Is a Real Boy played on a continuous loop for 5 months. (The only album that's beaten that is Keasbey Nights Vol. 2 by Streetlight Manifesto, which is another monster entirely.) And I still go back and listen again and again. It's a fallback. There are some albums I can't listen to from the 2004-2006 time period of my life, but I'm so grateful that ...Is a Real Boy isn't one of them.

Last month, Say Anything released their fourth album, Anarchy, My Dear, and for the first time, I listened twice, and turned it off. I didn't like it. And I expected this--the previous two albums were the same way, where I had to listen and focus and find a place in my heart that hadn't been taken by ...Is a Real Boy where I could put other songs. But I always found space. This time, though, I felt like this album didn't deserve space. I was in a different car, juggling a million things, and suddenly a much different person. Say Anything had changed too--the lead singer was married, mentally stable (thankfully!), on a different record label. Did Say Anything still have room for me? And more importantly, did I still have room for Say Anything?

So I drove around for a month, in my different car with my different life, wondering if this was the end. After what felt like torture, I finally got my car back from the shop (an exceptionally happy moment for me), and when I slid back into the seat, I suddenly felt it. The craving. The same craving I had after the first time I heard Alive with the Glory of Love, when I realised I was missing something I didn't know existed. I suddenly was missing Anarchy, My Dear, and I wasn't going to move without it. And since then, it's been playing nonstop, on its loop, and I am beginning to appreciate every single song for what each one is. A bitterly sweet love song (So Good), a fuck off opus (Peace Out), an alt-country powerhouse (Anarchy, My Dear). At 11 songs, it's the shortest Say Anything album, but it's not the weakest. And I'm happy to have realised that, even if it's late in coming.

So over the last seven years and three albums and countless tours, I've been there. Four times live, and a solo acoustic show from the lead singer. (That's where the picture at the top came from.) I'll be there a fifth time in two weeks, and I'll keep being there. I have so many memories from the last seven years, and every time I look back, there's a song playing. And far more often than not, it's Max Bemis's voice I'm hearing. I can already see moments of my life in the future (grad school graduation, walking into my first house, getting married) and hearing Say Anything in the background. And I'm really happy about that. They'll always be there, these six guys with their guitars and painfully honest lyrics, and no one will ever take that away.

So maybe I should get a Say Anything tattoo next??? Just kidding. Tell me about your favourite band.

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