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Say Anything, with Vedera, Anathalio and Machine Elvis

Friday, March 17, Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington Avenue, 713-864-2727

All right, kids, try to follow along with this: Real-life L.A. pop/punk trio Say Anything's debut CD is called Say Anything Is a Real Boy. It's a concept record about the rise and fall of an L.A. pop/punk group called Say Anything with a lead singer named Max Bemis whose every thought and emotion ("my pain grows like a Chia Pet") comes out in the form of a rock anthem. Oh, and there's a lot of material about groupie-fucking, fawning alt-weekly music critics [Hey! – ed.] and a rabid teen fan base. And when the singer's girlfriend leaves him, Bemis wonders aloud whom he'll mine now for emo-friendly lyrics of heartache, pain and suffering.

Got that? Good. Well, what could easily have been a horrid hipster mess, with its unwieldy ingredients and caked-on layers of self-awareness, actually pops out of the musical oven good 'n' tasty. Which is a testament to the strength of this material. More rock-oriented and smart (but not smarmy) than you might expect, the core duo of singer/multi-instrumentalist Bemis and drummer Coby Linder are joined by a Tommy-worthy gaggle of in-studio friends to spin a tale you've got to pay attention to, even if you couldn't tell Rivers Cuomo from Chris Carrabba to save your sorry hide.

The CD's recent rerelease tacks on a bonus disc of demos and related songs, including "Metal Now" and the pithy "I Will Never Write an Obligatory Song About Being on the Road and Missing Someone." Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Max? "Faithfully" is a great song.

Just when the good people of Vedera's native Kansas City were getting used to Veda, the little indie darling had to go and change its name to Vedera. Keep in mind that it wasn't exactly the band's idea – a Los Angeles group with the same name and an angry attorney decided on its behalf. Still, the abrupt name revision makes the band sound like a gas station or a reasonably priced German sedan. The best that can be said about the new name is that it's a strong advocate for running a spell-check. But though the moniker may have changed, the elements that made Veda successful – the pixielike look, siren call and rock-steady stage presence of singer and guitarist Kristin May – are still front and center. And with a 40-city tour under way and one of last year's best albums under its belt, Vedera is a name few will soon forget.

 
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