For as long as I can remember I’ve been doing research on the Holocaust.
It may sound weird, but let me explain.
When I was in the 5th grade, we had a reading corner. We were allowed to go there if we got our work done; it was used as a reward.
One day, I came across a book that seemed really sad. There were really skinny, sick people in it, and large piles of shoes. It didn’t make sense to me that it was wedged in between The Secret Garden and Hatchet. I immediately took it to the teacher, eager to tell her of her error.
“Mrs. Lehman. I don’t think this is real. What is it?”
Briefly, she explained that it was real, and that sometimes people do bad things to each other.
Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with trying to understand HOW, just HOW people can do something like that to each other. And despite my hours of research, books I’ve read, and documentaries I’ve watched, it still doesn’t add up.
I’ve heard every theory as to how an entire society could fall into that kind of behavior. Everything from, “Wrong place, wrong time,” to “They didn’t know the full scale,” to “They needed a scapegoat after WWI.”
None of it matters, though. At the end of the day, there is NO excuse for that behavior. No justification for those actions. And no way to forget what happened.
My husband often jokes with me that I have a “sick” set of interests. I find myself watching documentaries on serial killers, urban legends and genocide. He doesn’t get it. But I keep reminding him: I just want to understand. I want to know what these people are thinking (if they are thinking) and how they dealt with their actions. But sadly, I’ve learned, that many of them never really did face what they did. (After WWII a lot of the SS and other Nazis fled to Argentina. Bastards. Cowards.)
That preface leads me to this song.
In college, my friend introduced me to Say Anything through the song, “The Writhing South.” Max Bemis’ sarcastic (but oh-so-smooth) vocals took up my earbuds for a lot of my sophomore/junior year.
And it didn’t take me long to find “Alive With the Glory of Love.”
I knew Bemis was Jewish (and diagnosed as bipolar), but initially I had no idea how much that informed his music.
And when our city, vast and shitty, falls to the Axis
They’ll search the buildings, collect gold fillings, wallets and rings
It’s scary how someone can make such a horrific event sound so catchy when put to a melody. But I think that’s Bemis’ point. He’s said that the song is about his grandparents and how they survived the Holocaust and didn’t let anything get in the way of their love. It basically shows the dire situation they were in, and how important it is to hold on, even when there’s people that think that your love should/would fail.
I introduced the song (and the whole album) to many of my friends. Eventually, my friend Aly took to calling it “The Holocaust Song,” and would shout, “Let’s play the Holocaust song!” around unsuspecting people. The looks we got were interesting.
It seems that Say Anything has built a large part of their career on making songs that are catchy, but with lyrics so inappropriate that you wonder if you should be shouting them at the top of your lungs. (I mean, look at that album cover. Really?!)
In my opinion, …Is/Was a Real Boy is their best work. After that, the songs just don’t have that same magic. But if you’re looking for a band that will surprise you, check out that album. Quite frankly, there’s just no other band that handles history and mental health issues the way this one does. Bemis’ sarcasm and openness are appreciated. Especially in a society that tries to forget anything that isn’t pretty.