Label: Dine Alone Records
Released: 25th January 2019
When Say Anything’s Max Bemis prefaced the announcement of ‘Oliver Appropriate’ with a long and rambling note about the future of the band and the content of the album, it was hard to connect the fabric of it all.
So it’s no surprise to find that ‘Oliver Appropriate’ really needs the added context to be fully appreciated. Inspired by Museum Mouth’s ‘Alex, I Am Nothing’ – an album about unrequited gay love – ‘Oliver Appropriate’ is a counter-balance, considering what type of person would hurt that album’s narrator. It’s also a follow-up to Say Anything’s ‘…Is a Real Boy’ breakthrough, intertwining characters from these records into a new narrative. The waters are muddied further by the fact that Museum Mouth’s Karl Kuehn is a close friend of Bemis’, and Museum Mouth are signed to his Rory label. With so much to unpack, it’s no wonder why Bemis felt compelled to write a lengthy essay when announcing the album…
Anyway, just like this backstory, ‘Oliver Appropriate’ is a messy and muddled record, but this approach suits the album perfectly. Emotions are messy, and Bemis absolutely sells the narrator’s pain and confusion about their sexuality. It’s also abrupt, with Bemis going for the jugular lyrically – a trait somewhat amplified by the brevity of the tunes.
Yet, amidst this chaos, ‘Oliver Appropriate’ contains some solid gold pop-songs. The early salvo of ‘Daze’ and ‘Pink Snot’ rivals anything Say Anything have done previously, even if the uneven tone means such strength is unsustainable over 14 songs. Still, for a band that has lived by its own rules for the past two decades, ‘Oliver Appropriate’ is a fittingly bold and uncompromising conclusion to this chapter in Bemis’ career.