Emo dudes vary the heartbreak guitars with string ballads and a faux show tune for years, say anything leader Max Bemis has had to deal with bipolar disorder, but judging by his band’s third album, he’s got something else to gripe about — namely, bad, bad love. Loosely based on one of Bemis’ own relationships, the album mostly sticks to serrated emo but ranges from big, string-laden ballads (“Plea”) to a faux show tune (“That Is Why”). When Bemis is on –shuffling between a touching Latinate melody and an ace, bloodletting chorus on “Hangover Song,” delivering the sugar-rush pop of “Shiksa (Girlfriend)” –his songs are tuneful and invigorating. “Retarded in Love” is sort of like a Springer episode: You don’t want to watch someone fall apart before your eyes, but you don’t want to look away, either. Lyrics about his love interest, a “slender slave with sluttish, sleepy eyes,” should have stayed in Bemis’ journal. Still, it’s hard not root for him — if he could only handle ladies with the same ease with which he turns out good melodies, he’d be all right.
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