Revisiting Say Anything …Is a Real Boy

On August 3, 2004. The scene was blessed with an all time classic. Say Anything released …Is A Real Boy 16 years ago, and it has aged like the finest wine. Dominating listeners through multiple re-releases and remaining relevant even in today’s ever changing music world. So it’s time to pontificate to each other and revisit Say Anything’s classic album …Is A Real Boy.

Unlike other revists, there really is no need to break down every single song on the album. However, I am going to narrow down the revisit to just the contents of the original 2004 release with the track list ending on “Admit It!!”, as Max Bemis originally intended. And while …Was A Real Boy features many timeless tracks and even one of the more popular singles, it doesn’t feel right to include it. Plus, I’d like to add that I have been listening to …Is A Real Boy on repeat for roughly two weeks and that alone was an arduous journey. Add another 7 tracks to that and “A Walk Through Hell” and I am pretty sure my brain would melt before even typing a single word.

Let’s jump into it “and the record begins with a song of rebellion”, before the guitar reaches through the speaker and grabs all attention. This is the beginning of “Belt”, probably one of the best album openers of the last twenty years. Let’s all be honest with ourselves, “Belt” is not the song we all remember from this album. It’s hardly in any of the top 10’s related to this artist. However, as an opener it really serves its purpose and it’s hardly an instant skip either. This song exists in the middle ground somewhere between tolerable and great. The actual position depends on the listener. Similar songs on the album are “An Orgy of Critics”, “Slowly Through a Vector” and “Chia-Like,I Shall Grow”. As I stated earlier, these songs aren’t bad by any stretch, it just seems like they exist as filler between the heavy hitters. The content and resonance of these tracks is the reward of endless playthroughs of the album. They are not the favorites but when cycling through the album endlessly they are there and they are awesome in their own right.

Moving onto the category of “Songs everyone and their not scene little brother knows”. At the absolute top of the list is “Alive, With the Glory of Love” and why shouldn’t it be at the top? Thanks MTV and Fuse (RIP) for spreading the general awareness of Say Anything, and more specifically playing this music video nonstop for the entirety of 2006 and most of 2007. There’s also that awesome little spot on Scrubs. This song was literally everywhere for a brief period of time, with the single charting at 28 on the Rock charts. It only took me 10 years to really appreciate this song, more on that later.  Now anytime it comes on I break out into my worst two step, to the horror of any around me unwilling to join. Play this song in any kitchen and you’ll see at least a mini pit open up if they aren’t in the middle of a rush. I’ve accepted that this is the song most people remember from this album, I wish they’d dig a little deeper, but at least they made it this far right?

The next contender in the category of “Songs Everyone Knows”, has to be “I Want To Know Your Plans”. I’m honestly surprised that none of the aged scene kid weddings I’ve attended haven’t had this song played. No I’m not surprised, I am offended. This beautiful, sweet and cute song should be first on the wedding playlist, fight me. Checking the mandatory slow song box on this release with almost no real promotion as a single is impressive. Normally scene bands are too quick to promote their slow song to bring more people in. Also mix “The Writhing South” in here somewhere. Everyone likes that song, and for some reason it always gets brought up when discussing …Is A Real Boy. Rounding out the category is obviously “Admit It!!”. This aggressive and scathing letter to the scene and its inhabitants has stayed relevant for the last 16 years. How in the hell did Max Bemis write this song with its finger pointed at so many people for so long? I’ll admit it once pointed its finger at me. How many times have I pontificated with my friends? I’m ashamed, but I’ll admit it, who else is willing to say the same? If this song doesn’t make you somewhat uncomfortable; I admire your lack of cringey past behavior.

Alright now for my favorite category of songs. The “songs you should love because I love them” category. At the absolute tippy top of this list is “Woe”, easily my favorite Say Anything song and maybe my favorite song ever written, maybe. It’s all in one line “she said, I can’t get laid in this town without these pointy fuckin shoes”. Never has a more yell worthy line existed, I yelled it while writing it; don’t lie, you yelled it while you read it. This song changed 13 year old Justin, probably for the better and it definitely still affects late-twenties Justin. Next up is “Spidersong” which has gotten shit on for too long in my opinion. Some will call it a weak, forgettable song. These people are lame and have no say here. Frankly, it’s just a really weird song, weird lyrics, weird imagery overall weird. Did I say weird enough to describe it? And now for my number two favorite song of all time, or at least on this album. “Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat”, half of my teenage identity revolved around liking this damn song. It’s a haunting crawl, paced to build at a snail’s pace with lyrics flying all over the place. Something mundane as separating two differently colored cats regardless of deeper meaning is ridiculous. The good kind of ridiculous, the kind of ridiculous that you expect from a once in a generation talent. Let’s not forget the sleeper hit “Every Man has a Molly”. I still feel bad for the rough sex Max Bemis had to miss out on to bring us this banger. Obviously he won out with his amazing wife, but we should all feel a slight pang of guilt. Finally we reach the end of the best-list with “The Futile”, another very underappreciated song that will snap any former fan into its mix on the first line. “Shit nothing makes sense”, it didn’t then, and it doesn’t now. I’m still convinced that old people can only teach us how to die. And “hissyfits” still only really teaches us how to cry.

Is it really great that I’ve taken life lessons from Say Anything? No, most definitely not. But this concludes our revisit of the original …Is a Real Boy. Maybe we can take a look at …Was A Real Boy and the song “Walk Through Hell” at a later date. And before anyone sounds off in the comments about “Walk Through Hell” or “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too”, neither of those songs were on the original tracklist. “Walk Through Hell” was included in the 2005 reissue of …Is A Real Boy on J Records. The original 2004 release with Doghouse Records moved roughly 20,000 units and snowballed into major label interest. Which eventually led to all the reissues and confusion looking back. As a whole we will never get another …Is A Real Boy, it is a fixture in the scene and rightfully so. Strangely enough, the majority of the women I’ve been in a serious relationship with love this album. I guess I have a type.

Say Anything may not be active, but they left us with a treasure trove of music to get us from one life moment to the next. Make sure to give …Is A Real Boy a listen and wish it a very happy sweet sixteen. I can absolutely guarantee I will be revisiting their followup In Defense of the Genre. Until then, fellow scene kids.

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