After having written multiple cornerstones of emo’s hey day and revival, Max Bemis is ready to call it a day for Say Anything. With Oliver Appropriate, Bemis is bidding farewell to the band that’s secured him a place on emo night playlists for decades to come with some of his best work. Oliver Appropriate is an album of realization and acceptance, and it puts a bow on the emo outfit’s long career.
Since the band’s breakthrough Is a Real Boy, Max Bemis has always explored his shortcomings and public persona with both brash honesty and self-deprecation with a sense of self-awareness that escapes more pop-punk artists than would be happy to admit it. Olive Appropriate is no exception. On the opening song, Bemis reflects on struggles with success and addiction and sings, “The morning streams out an afterbirth of vodka/The dream of Julian Casablancas.” Bemis drops these quips all throughout the LP whether he’s reflecting on his sexuality (“I’m a slick son-of-a-bitch/Because Bowie’s my excuse”), ever-fluctuating success and stardom (“I can’t be a bartender again”), or addiction (“I’m hardly ever able to feel as high as I feel tonight/Cause I’m actually high”). A part of Bemis’ charm comes from the fact that he allows himself to be unlikable sometimes. He often plays into this too. On “When I’m Acid,” he repeats “God, I’m smart, and I’m worth hating,” and later, “Fuck, I’m hot, and I’m worth hating.” Part of why Say Anything has remained an interesting and relevant band while others have fallen to the wayside is that Bemis struggles with his development where many of his contemporaries usually just lean into being nostalgia acts.
Being perhaps the final Say Anything record, Bemis incorporates many of the elements that have made the outfit so enduring, besides just the lyrics. Strings are featured heavily in the acoustic barn-burner “Daze,” and uses a multitude of effects to enhance songs like the almost-pop song “It’s a Process.” These experiments work sometimes, but often they tend to hurt the songs. They don’t feel more awkward than they do in the record’s final moments where Bemis performs a spoken word piece to finish an otherwise relatively engaging songs. The people that have stuck by Say Anything through surprise releases and guitar-less albums will probably appreciate some of Bemis’ more left-field ideas, but Olive Appropriate doesn’t serve as a backdoor entrance for new fans.
Bemis has gone on record saying that Say Anything will probably be back at some point, but that doesn’t mean Oliver Appropriate doesn’t feel final. A line like “A band that’s coming back from a fake hiatus” almost sounds like a prophecy so Bemis doesn’t have to claim the dissolution of the band is a cash grab. Say Anything will always be a band for the anxious and unsure, and fittingly, Oliver Appropriate leaves a lot of uncomfortable uncertainty.