Emo doesn’t have to be simpering, navel-gazing twaddle. Witness Max Bemis, the anti-Carraba who reconceives Dashboard Confessional’s overwrought, wet-diaper melodrama with canny, self-indicting wit. Bemis imagines beer-drinking, TV-addled indolence as “the existential equivalent of pink eye” on “Do Better” and explains “I hate everyone, and that’s why I’m a humanist.” He’ll slam the Kings of Leon for all their songs about girls, and in the next line acknowledge, “I don’t suck much less.” While his humble self-deprecation and serrated social critique distances Bemis from hair-shirted emo teeth-gnashers, it’s equaled by the Say Anything frontman’s adventurous sonic touch. Using a punk-pop starting point, Bemis enriches his arrangements with increasing baroque sophistication, and explores everything from doo-wop and Broadway showtunes to reggae and classic rock. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you put away the rattle and tamp down on the self-regard: Eminently listenable emo, an endangered species the last dozen years.
Sat., Feb. 19, 7pm. $13-$16. With River City Extension. North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St. 215.787.0488.