... Is a Real Boy, originally released in 2004 on Doghouse Records, was recorded and produced with the help of Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Tim O'Heir (Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr.) and is delicious snark served up with crunching guitars and anthemic vocals. It's also a rock opera about a band called Say Anything and its depressed and idealistic lead singer, named Max Bemis, who is "cursed" with the ability to sing "full orchestrated rock anthems" anytime he feels a strong emotion. He tries to save the world from itself and ultimately fails.
Far from whiny teen angst rock, ... Is a Real Boy is actual punk: It rails against itself and against society at large, laughing all the way. Say Anything's grasp of irony sets them apart from other similar bands: In "Every Man Has a Molly," Bemis sings, "Molly Connolly just broke up with me over the revealing nature of the songs. You goddamn kids had best be gracious with the merch money you spend, because for you I won't ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again," to the tune of a gently plucked guitar that explodes into full-on pop-punk-rock with hand claps and a chorus of backing vocals. "Slowly, Through a Vector" ends with Bemis repeating "Ha ha ha, show me what you've got," as if to say, Neener-neener, other emo bands; I can rock circles around your asses.