26. Song No. 144: “Alive with the Glory of Love” by Say Anything
…is a Real Boy, 2004
My longest-running, absolutely most favorite Say Anything song is this one, an inspired-by-real-events love song set against the escalating horrors that Max Bemis sings of his Holocaust-survivor maternal grandparents living through.
One could very reasonably argue it’s gauche to begin a song that ultimately detours through a concentration camp with lyrics like “Wheeeeeeen / Iiiiiiiiii / Watch you / Wanna do you / Right where you’re standing,” but I’ve always loved Bemis’ way of fueling a song darkened by one of humanity’s most hateful atrocities with a driving love that keeps two people alive for each other and just dominates the song. (Hey, remember in the early aughts when the constant spectre of war hovered morbidly over everything and we winced at the heavens daily, wondering how much worse things could possible get ’til we crossed the tipping point? That’s when this song was recorded and hooooooo boy, does it ever resonate just as eerily though hopefully relevant now as it did then.) It’s honestly just a thing of frenetic, aggressive beauty and survival in one urgent ode to love in all its manifestations and how it has a way of eclipsing unthinkable atrocities like Jewish ghettos, people living in hidden, constantly threatened sanctuaries and persistent fear, and literal death camps. It is one of those times when the criminally overused superlative “epic” is actually warranted.
Plus, it imbues a traditionally and deservedly mournful, somber period of history with a refusal to be held prisoner within no matter the hellscape the body is witnessing. And instead of the saccharine crooning typically befitting a love this fierce, you get Bemis practically barking lines like “You’d look finer / With each day in hiding / Beneath the wormwood / Oooh, love me so good / They won’t hear us screw away the day” with the full-throated carnal lust that comes with a love that animates every crevice of the soul. If Bukowski, with his penchant for emphasizing the beauty of those things and moments worth immortalizing in verse by contrasting them with lovingly rendered lines capturing the ugly inverse, wrote love songs, they’d all sound like this.
Aaaaand this completes my Say Anything trifecta of favorites. I’m not really sure when this band is gonna pop up here again, but. I feel like I should apologize in advance for when it does, given the presence of some now glaringly problematic content and song titles. (Sweet Chthulu, did we ever gloss over some woefully troublesome lyrics in high school and college that make my skin crawl now. But that’s another conversation for another time.)